Little to worry Irish as sloppy Wales squeeze past Azzurri
It must have been the Roman air, but there was just a little bit too much contentment around here on Saturday night. Wales were happy to have ground out a second successive away victory, while Italy were relieved to have restored a measure of self-esteem after their humiliation at Twickenham.
There was praise for Italy -- even some awe that they had managed 17 offloads in the tackle (Wales only made 10) -- and there was hope Wales could still have a say in the championship. But mainly it was just platitudinous fluff, because this was a poor international rugby match.
Wales showed glimpses of the sort of class and cohesion that might trouble a top side, but in general were sloppy and at times downright silly in their decision making. They conceded a lot of penalties and produced a kicking game of which a scabby donkey would not be particularly proud.
They also provided Italy with two tries on a silver platter, coughing up possession when attempting to be too clever deep in their own half. Italy did spurn 10 points in kicks, but that is not to say they would have won if they had taken them. Wales always appeared to have a little bit more, as evidenced by a late James Hook dropped goal to ensure Italy required two scores for victory.
Both teams bemoaned disallowed tries: Italy a first-half chance for prominent flanker Alessandro Zanni -- which certainly looked like a score -- but could not be confirmed by TV evidence, and Wales a lovely looking try for Lee Byrne just before the interval, for which the final pass from Shane Williams was ruled forward.
That would have given Wales considerably more than the 21-11 lead they took into the break.
"The touch judge's call on that forward pass was a very tight call," said coach Warren Gatland. "We could have gone out and expressed ourselves a bit more in the second half."
Gatland admitted surprise at the Italian's willingness to play a more open game than usual.
"I expected a lot more of a set-piece game but they attacked," he said. But still Italy could not create. Their two tries came from Welsh mistakes. Doubtless much debate will now focus on whether Hook should return to out-half for the visit of Ireland to Cardiff a week on Saturday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Italy -- L McLean; A Masi (T Benvenuti 73), G Canale, A Sgarbi, M Bergamasco ; K Burton (L Orquera 64), F Semenzato (P Canavosio 71); S Perugini (A Lo Cicero 40), L Ghiraldini, M Castrogiovanni (Perugini 70), S Dellape (V Bernabo 52), Q Geldenhuys, A Zanni, R Barbieri (M Vosawai 72), S Parisse (capt).
Wales -- L Byrne; M Stoddart, J Hook, J Roberts, S Williams; S Jones, M Phillips; P James, M Rees (capt) (R Hibbard 77), C Mitchell, B Davies, A-W Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton, R Jones.
Ref -- W Barnes (England).