Wales secure bonus-point against Italy after just 30 minutes
Italy’s 31st Six Nations defeat in a row saw them offer little resistance at Stadio Olimpico
Wales’ George North eqaulled Shane Williams’ Wales record of 22 Six Nations touchdowns. Photograph: Getty Images
Wales moved one win away from landing the Six Nations title and a Grand Slam after crushing Italy 48-7 in Rome.
The unbeaten tournament leaders reeled off a third successive bonus-point victory to increase pressure on their rivals for silverware. And Wayne Pivac’s team head to Paris for an appointment with France next Saturday, knowing that a sixth Six Nations crown and fifth Grand Slam will be secured if they topple Les Bleus.
Italy’s 31st Six Nations defeat in a row saw them predictably offer little resistance at Stadio Olimpico as Wales tore them apart by scoring seven tries.
Hooker Ken Owens led the way with a try double, while wing Josh Adams and number eight Taulupe Faletau also touched down during a dominant first-half display that saw Wales secure a bonus-point after just 30 minutes.
Centre George North added his 43rd Wales try early in the second period, equalling Shane Williams’ Wales record of 22 Six Nations touchdowns, and there were also scores for outhalf substitute Callum Sheedy and wing Louis Rees-Zammit.
Pivac made two changes following the Triple Crown-clinching victory over England a fortnight ago, replacing injured scrumhalf Kieran Hardy with Gareth Davies and handing lock Cory Hill a start instead of Adam Beard.
Italy showed five switches, including a recall for Wales-born number nine Stephen Varney, who missed the defeat against Ireland last month after being injured during the warm-up.
Wales were off and running inside three minutes as Biggar kicked a 40-metre penalty, and the Azzurri were soon in deep trouble. Captain Luca Bigi was sin-binned by referee Wayne Barnes — his second yellow card in successive games — and Wales opted for an attacking scrum, rather than kicking for goal.
It reaped an immediate reward as Wales moved possession wide before Biggar’s long pass found Adams, who crossed for his 16th Test try, with Biggar converting.
Wales struck with a second try after 14 minutes while Bigi was still off the pitch. Rees-Zammit had already threatened Italy’s defence and he delivered a scoring pass to Faletau following another sweeping attack as Wales effortlessly moved 15-0 ahead.
Italy could not live with Wales’ pace and intensity, and a third try arrived when the Welsh forwards drove menacingly from a short-range lineout and Owens touched down.
Biggar’s successful conversion made it 22-0 as Wales rattled along at a point a minute.
Owens delivered Wales’ fourth try when he stretched out to touch down following another powerful forward surge, and Italy were in disarray as their troubled afternoon continued when prop Giosue Zilocchi went off injured, being replaced by Marco Riccioni.
Rees-Zammit had a try disallowed five minutes before half-time after a forward pass by Biggar, but Wales were in cruise control, leading 27-0 at the break.
Wales needed just two minutes of the second period to increase their lead, with centre Jonathan Davies freeing his midfield partner North, who sprinted clear.
Biggar’s conversion took Wales 34 points in front, but Italy gained a 51st-minute try through Ioane’s fine solo score, with Garbisi converting from the touchline.
Italy collected a second yellow card of the game when Riccioni departed for a dangerous challenge on Willis Halaholo, and Wales moved past 40 points on the hour-mark after Sheedy converted his own try.
And Wales added one more try — a 70-metre interception effort by Rees Zammit — as the Gloucester speedster claimed a fifth touchdown in just his eighth Test.