Saturday 23 February 2019

Wales extend unbeaten run in game to forget

Italy 15 Wales 26

Josh Adams of Wales crosses to score their first try. Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
Josh Adams of Wales crosses to score their first try. Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Andrew Baldock

Wales equalled the longest unbeaten run in their 138-year Test match history as they defeated dogged Italy. It was Wales' 11th successive victory, matching the sequence set between 1907 and 1910, and teed up a crunch Cardiff clash against England in a fortnight's time.

Despite the record-equalling victory, Wales captain Jonathan Davies felt there was plenty of room for improvement. "I think there was a lot of frustration in that performance, but I can't fault the boys' effort," he said. "That accuracy in the final quarter to turn that pressure into points was probably what we lacked.

Owen Watkin of Wales (12) celebrates with Jonah Holmes as he scores their third try. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Owen Watkin of Wales (12) celebrates with Jonah Holmes as he scores their third try. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

"But we came to a difficult place to play and got the result. Credit to Italy, they made things tough for us. We probably expected to be a bit more accurate but we can take things out of the game and the focus now switches to a big game coming up in a couple of weeks.

"We're in a good place at the moment and we just have to keep the momentum going."

Warren Gatland feels his side will have to play much better to beat England. "There are lots of things we need to improve for England," he said. "The line-out was a bit concerning, we didn't have enough tempo. We kept having to step away and Italy closed down that space pretty quickly.

"We all need to improve in lots of areas to beat England, they are a pretty good side at the moment. If we play like that against England it could be embarrassing."

Sebastian Negri da Ollegio of Italy cliams the ball in the lineout. Photo: Getty
Sebastian Negri da Ollegio of Italy cliams the ball in the lineout. Photo: Getty

Wales, though, will need to be significantly better for that game as a team showing 10 changes from the side that staged a stunning second-half fightback to beat France in Paris last week laboured far too much in Rome.

Tries by wing Josh Adams and centre Owen Watkin proved the difference, while fly-half Dan Biggar kicked 14 points and Gareth Anscombe converted Watkin's touchdown. But Italy, despite slipping to a 19th successive Six Nations defeat and a 13th on the bounce against Wales, battled hard throughout.

They claimed a first-half try from flanker Abraham Steyn, with fly-half Tommaso Allan kicking a penalty and conversion, before wing Edoardo Padovani crossed late on. Wales were ultimately deserved winners, yet they will be frustrated at not collecting a winning bonus point, which might prove costly in the final championship shake-up.

Gatland made wholesale changes following last week's comeback victory over France, handing Six Nations debuts to Leicester wing Jonah Holmes and Wasps flanker Thomas Young, plus first Six Nations starts for scrum-half Aled Davies and back-row forward Aaron Wainwright.

Italy were soon in trouble, conceding a penalty after just 27 seconds for not releasing, and Biggar kicked Wales in front. Biggar then doubled Wales' advantage through a second penalty 12 minutes later as the visitors dominated territory and possession.

Biggar, back in the starting line-up ahead of Gareth Anscombe, was at the heart of Wales' attacking game.

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