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Six Nations Championship: Wales conquer Italy in Rome romp
Wales kept alive their hopes of retaining the Six Nations title with an impressive 26-9 victory over Italy in Rome.
Their success was built on a dominant scrum which forced a succession of penalties, the reliable boot of Leigh Halfpenny and opportunist second-half tries from Jonathan Davies and Alex Cuthbert.
It is back to the drawing board for Italy, who have followed up their victory over France on opening day with two poor displays and disappointing defeats first to Scotland and now to Wales.
An early offside as Wales pressed in the Italian 22 gave Halfpenny the chance to put the visitors ahead, before Italy won a scrum penalty shortly afterwards and Kris Burton levelled the scores.
But from that point the Wales scrum took charge, driving the Italian eight back and winning successive penalties, the second of which Halfpenny knocked over.
A third penalty at the scrum quickly followed and Halfpenny duly kicked his third three-pointer.
Italy finally forced some pressure in the second quarter but failed to create anything and after a series of phases, Burton screwed a drop-goal attempt wide.
He had better luck from the tee shortly afterwards, although Wales went closest to scoring a try as a poor first half drew to a close, Gonzalo Canale's tap tackle on Cuthbert in full flight saving an almost certain try.
Burton missed another drop-goal try two minutes into the second half, before Wales finally forced a breakthrough, almost from nowhere.
Mike Phillips' chip over the top from the back of a ruck hardly looked threatening but it took two wicked bounces away from the Italian defenders and into the arms of Davies, who was able to dive in unopposed.
Halfpeny kicked the conversion and suddenly there was daylight between the sides, although Burton did cut the deficit moments later.
Another scrum penalty yielded Halfpenny three more points, before the key moment in the match arrived just before the hour.
The referee finally lost patience with the Italian scrum and prop and skipper Martin Castrogiovanni was sin-binned.
Two minutes later Cuthbert hit a perfect line, took a pass from Dan Biggar and slid in on the diagonal at the corner. Halfpenny converted and with Italy offering next to no attacking threat, Wales were able to cruise through the final quarter.