Wales 38-14 Italy: Wasteful visitors made to pay in Cardiff Six Nations clash
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 12/03/18 6:24am
Wales secured their second victory of the 2018 Six Nations as they beat Italy 38-14 at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
Conor O'Shea's visitors wasted various opportunities, though, and also played for 20 minutes against 14 men.
Early individual errors from centre Tomasso Castello and flanker Maxime Mbanda led to tries for Wales from Hadleigh Parkes and George North in the opening six minutes.
From there, Italy dominated for large spells but had only a Matteo Minozzi try to show for their efforts until a Mattia Bellini try with just four minutes left.
Liam Williams and Gareth Davies were both sin-binned but still Italy failed to produce points as Cory Hill, North and Justin Tipuric crossed for further Wales tries.
Warren Gatland's side finish their championship at home to France next Saturday, while Italy entertain Scotland.
Wales averaged 46 points a time in their last four games against Italy, and they made a flying start by posting two converted tries during the opening six minutes.
Parkes bounced off Castello's poor tackle technique to claim Wales' opener, before Wales centre Owen Watkin made great ground from deep after picking off an intercept. His pass found North, who finished off his 31st Test match touchdown, with Gareth Anscombe adding both conversions.
Any hint of Wales complacency was swiftly removed when Italy responded through a superb try by Minozzi, who stepped Williams and brushed off Gareth Davies to finish well in the corner. Tommy Allan's conversion made it 14-7 after 10 minutes.
Italy were buoyed by the score, and they kept Wales pinned back before Allan missed a 35-metre penalty chance 10 minutes before half-time. For all their possession and territory, Italy failed to add any points.
Wales could not re-establish initial momentum, and they were content to increase their advantage through a 35th-minute Anscombe penalty.
The home side ended the opening 40 minutes reduced to 14 men when full-back Williams was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on his opposite number Minozzi, as Wales' early promise continued to show signs of evaporating, even though they led 17-7 at the break.
Wales needed to regroup following a lacklustre second quarter, and they delivered within four minutes of the restart as sustained close-range pressure ended with Hill claiming his first Test try.
Anscombe added the extras, leaving Wales with the best part of 35 minutes to claim a bonus-point score.
But they were briefly reduced to 13 players after scrum-half Gareth Davies received a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, while head coach Gatland sent on Leigh Halfpenny as a replacement for Williams.
Italy, to their credit, defended valiantly, never giving up despite conceding more than 20 tries in this season's tournament, but North ensured the five-point maximum when he crossed 14 minutes from time.
Tipuric confirmed an emphatic success as defensive gaps inevitably began to open, before Italy claimed a consolation try when Bellini was freed on an overlap. But the visitors ended the game a man short as Tommaso Benvenuti received a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on.