Dan Biggar gave Wales a solid seven out of 10 mark after the reigning RBS Six Nations champions kept themselves in title contention at Stadio Olimpico.
Italy 9 - 26 Wales
Italy - Pens: Burton 3.
Wales - Tries: Davies, Cuthbert. Cons: Halfpenny 2. Pens: Halfpenny 4.
Six Nations silverware still appears destined for Stuart Lancaster’s resurgent England team this season but, if Wales do end up relinquishing their crown, it will not be with a whimper.
Wales’ 26-9 victory was their second biggest over Italy in Rome and also gave them a fourth successive Six Nations away win, which is a feat they had never previously accomplished during the championship’s 13-year history. And having gone almost 200 minutes without conceding a try, Biggar and company are building nicely towards next month’s clashes with Scotland and England.
England’s superior points difference is likely to be even more pronounced following Italy’s Twickenham visit on 10 March but, if Wales beat Scotland 24 hours earlier in Edinburgh, it would set up a spine-tingling Millennium Stadium showdown. By then the Wales players will have dried out after torrential rain did its utmost to ruin a contest that was decided by second-half tries from Jonathan Davies and Alex Cuthbert.
“The conditions were difficult, but we stuck to what we wanted to do and it was a pretty good 7 out of 10,” stand-off Biggar said.
Italy were still in the contest at half-time, trailing only 9-6 following two Kristopher Burton penalties to three by Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny, but the game then turned quickly.
A damaging third quarter for the Azzurri saw Davies score barely a minute after they blew an open-goal try opportunity when Tommaso Benvenuti could not gather possession in sight of Wales’ line, then Martin Castrogiovanni was sin-binned.
Castrogiovanni, stand-in skipper for the suspended Sergio Parisse, collected a yellow card that highlighted overwhelming Welsh scrum dominance, and Cuthbert crossed for the clincher while he was off.
The only disappointing note for Wales was a calf muscle injury suffered by prop Gethin Jenkins, who could now be doubtful to face Scotland, but, elsewhere, resources were strengthened by fit-again forwards Alun-Wyn Jones and Sam Warburton.
Italy: Masi, Venditti, Benvenuti, G. Canale, McLean, Burton, Gori, Lo Cicero, Ghiraldini, Castrogiovanni, Pavanello, Minto, Zanni, Favaro, Vosawai. Replacements: Garcia for G. Canale (63), Botes for Gori (65), De Marchi for Lo Cicero (54), Giazzon for Ghiraldini (54), Cittadini for Castrogiovanni (70), Geldenhuys for Minto (54), Derbyshire for Favaro (69).
Wales: Halfpenny, Cuthbert, Davies, Roberts, North, Biggar, Phillips, Jenkins, Hibbard, A. Jones, Coombs, Evans, R. Jones, Tipuric, Faletau. Replacements: S. Williams for Roberts (71), Hook for Biggar (68), L. Williams for Phillips (63), James for Jenkins (45), Owens for Hibbard (51), Mitchell for A. Jones (73), A. Jones for Coombs (51), Warburton for R. Jones (68).