Saturday 16 December 2017

Gatland left purring after Welsh find redemption in nine-try demolition job

Wales 67 Italy 14

Wales George North celebrates scoring a try. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters
Wales George North celebrates scoring a try. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters
Wales George North gets past the Italians to score a try. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters
Wales' Gareth Davies beats the tackle of Italy's Dario Chistolini to score his side's ninth try. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

Ian Malin

Wales secured a runners-up finish in the Six Nations by crushing Italy in the Principality Stadium. Warren Gatland's team ran in nine tries - Ross Moriarty (2), Rhys Webb, Liam Williams, George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar touched down - while Biggar added 16 points from the boot and Rhys Priestland kicked three conversions.

Italy, who prop up the championship table following five successive defeats, claimed second-half consolation tries from scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani and centre Gonzalo Garcia, with Kelly Haimona converting both scores, but the Azzurri were horribly outclassed. Dan Lydiate, Wales's stand-in captain in Cardiff in the absence of the concussed Sam Warburton, said the side had been smarting from their defeat at Twickenham and a record win over Italy had helped atone for the loss last weekend.

"We wanted redemption after last week and luckily we had the chance to get the game out of our systems," said Lydiate. "We conceded two soft tries today but our defence, particularly in the first half, was excellent."

Wales' record win was only marred by an injury to flanker Justin Tipuric, who had replaced Warburton in the back row. Tipuric was taken to hospital after it was feared he was also concussed when falling awkwardly in a first-half lineout.

Head coach Warren Gatland said: "We were all disappointed with that first half against England and the players have been incredibly honest with each other during the week and I have been incredibly impressed with how they have coped.

"It has been a funny campaign for us. We have tried to change our style but that doesn't happen overnight. At times, such as the last quarter against England and today we have clicked. At other times we haven't but we are developing and playing with confidence."

Gatland paid tribute to wing George North, who was given the man of the match award and who followed his try against France in Cardiff with a stunning solo effort in the second half. "With George it is about building him up. He is now playing with a smile on his face and getting back to his form of 2013."

For Italy, though, the smiles were a little forced. This is their 11th wooden spoon since entering the Six Nations in 2000 and they have won only 12 of their 85 games.

"We made too many individual mistakes but the referee did not help," said Jacques Brunel, for whom this was an unhappy final game as head coach. "When they scored their first try their scrum-half was about three metres in front of the scrum. We hope we can learn from today and we do have the spine of a good side in the future. But we didn't have the tools to play against this Welsh team."

Scorers - Wales: Moriarty 2 tries Biggar try, 2 pens, 5 cons, Webb, Davies, Roberts, North, Li Williams, G Davies try each; Priestland 3 cons; Italy: Palazzani, Garcia try each,; Haimona 2 cons.

Wales: Williams; Amos (Anscombe, 48), J Davies, Roberts, North; Biggar (Priestland, 58), Webb (Davies, 63); Evans (Jenkins, 50), Baldwin (Owens, 50), Lee (Jarvis, 58), B Davies (Ball, 58), Charteris, Lydiate (capt), Tipuric (Moriarty, 16), Faletau.

Italy: Odiete; Sarto, Pratichetti (Haimona, 36), Garcia, Bellini (McLean, 33); Allan, Palazzani (Lucchese, 63); Lovoti (Zanusso, 64), Giazzon (Fabiani, 46), Castrogiovanni (Chistolini, 46), Geldenhuys, Bernabo (Sarto, 46), Minto (Steyn, 61), Zanni, Parisse (capt).

Referee: R Poite (Fra).

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