Italy 7 Wales 48: Rampant visitors run in SEVEN tries to continue charge to Six Nations Grand Slam crownMarch 13, 2021
WALES are on the brink of repeating their 2019 Grand Slam after they simply blew Italy away with a seven try onslaught.
Hooker Ken Owens led the way with two touchdowns in the opening thirty minutes, as Wales wrapped up a four-try bonus point in double quick time and romped to their biggest ever win in Rome.
And the highlight of a dominant Welsh performance was provided by Louis Rees-Zammitt – who else?
He finished off the scoring by picking off an interception, and scorching the earth with an 80-metre dash for his fourth try of the Championship.
So it is four out of four Wayne Pivac’s team, an incredible turnaround from their dismal showing in 2020 when they lost seven of their ten matches.
Wales will head to Paris on Saturday in super-confident mood, although France will present a much tougher challenge than a desperately disappointing Italian outfit.
But the Dragons will also be boosted by their impressive record in Paris – winning three of their last four Six Nations matches in the French capital, including the incredible 24-19 victory that launched their last Grand Slam campaign.
Wales had to come back from a 16-0 half time deficit to win that one, the biggest turnaround in Six Nations history.
There was never any chance of having to dig that deep here, with Josh Adams starting the procession towards the Italian line after just seven minutes.
Pivac had warned Welsh fans not to expect too much 'razzle-dazzle' early on, as his team would need to subdue the Azzurri before attempting to put them to the sword.
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Italy have usually been competitive for at least the first half of most games, so that note of caution was probably justified – or it would have been if the home team had not crumbled so quickly.
That explained why there were no thoughts of kicking to the corner when Wales won a penalty ten yards inside the Italian half after just two minutes.
Dan Biggar stepped up and slotted over the first points of the game.
But Gareth Davies changed tactics when Wales were awarded another penalty in the shadow of the posts, and a quick tap sent him haring towards the line.
Italian skipper Luca Bigi pulled the Wales scrum-half back before he had gone anything like the required ten yards, and the inevitable yellow card was the signal for Wales to cut loose.
They ignored another kickable penalty and opted for a scrum, and Biggar’s long pass sent Josh Adams over in the corner.
Biggar added the extras after that seventh-minute try, and there were more wide open spaces to exploit as Rees-Zammit selflessly handed Toby Faletau the scoring pass on the other flank.
That made it 15-0, and even though Biggar missed the conversion this time, Wales were still scoring at more than a point a minute.
Bigi’s return from the sin bin did nothing to slow the scoring rate, and with barely a quarter of the game gone Wales had their third try, with Owens rumbling over from a driving maul.
The Welsh hooker had a bit more to do for his second try when another lineout drive splintered, but he jumped back to his feet and powered over with two defenders wrapped around him.
That meant the bonus point was in the bag with just thirty minutes gone, and plenty of the Italian players were already blowing hard.
The only thing that went wrong for Wales in a dream first half came when Biggar put Rees-Zammit away for another try, only for the score to be chalked off for a forward pass.
But try No5 arrived just two minutes after the restart, and no-one will have been surprised to see George North slice through the defence after a neat offload from centre partner Gareth Davies.
This was the EIGHTH game in a row where North has scored against Italy, taking his total haul against them to a mind-boggling 11.
Pivac seemed to take pity on the Azzurri, as he immediately told North to take a breather, with Willis Halaholo taking over in midfield
There was more joy for the home team as wing Montanna Ioane – their most dangerous runner throughout this miserable campaign – scored in the corner after gathering his own kick ahead.
With Pivac emptying the bench, Wales quickly re-established their supremacy, with Callum Sheedy zipping through for his first try and Rees-Zammit leaving everyone for dead after intercepting near his own 22.
It all added up to a 31st successive Six Nations defeat for Italy, most of them by embarrassing margin, like this one.
That will re-ignite the debate over whether they are worthy of a place in the Championship, or whether a home and away play-off against Georgia should be brought in.
But Pivac and his Welsh players have far more lofty considerations on their minds.
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