Italy stun Wales as they score a last minute try to win in Cardiff
Wales produced a performance of such abysmal paucity that what should have been a day to remember for Dan Biggar and Alun Wyn Jones turned into the biggest of nightmares.
This was Italy’s first Six Nations win since 2015 as they ended a run of 36 straight Championship losses to show two fingers to those who think they have no place in this tournament.
The Azzurri deserve great credit for this performance and their try to win it from Edoardo Padovani was a delightful effort. But the fact they were given a sniff not was not because they were particularly good, but because their opposition often plumbed such depths of mediocrity that it became difficult to watch.
Edoardo Padovani is mobbed by his teammates after scoring the match-winning try
Wales Tries: Watkin 28, Lake 51, Adams 69
Cons: Biggar 28, 52, 69
Italy Try: Padovani 80
Con: Garbisi 80
Pens: Garbisi 13, 32, 57 Padovani 16, 34
Wales: McNicholl 4 (Sheedy 60,4); Rees-Zammit 5, Watkin 6.5, Halaholo 3 (Tompkins 47,5), Adams 7.5; Biggar (capt) 5, G Davies 4 (Hardy 67,5); Thomas 5 (W Jones 60,5), Lake 6.5 (Roberts 76,5), Lewis 3 4 (Brown 40,5), Beard 5, AW Jones 5 (Rowlands 60,5), S Davies 4 (Moriarty 50,5.5), Navidi 5.5, Faletau 5
Italy: Capuozzo 7; Padovani 8.5, Brex 6, Marin 5 (Zanon 53,6), Ioane 7.5; Garbisi 8, Braley 6.5 (Fusco 60,6); Fischetti 7 (Traore 70,6), Nicotera 6.5 (Bigi 53,6), Ceccarelli 6 (Alongi 53,6), Fuser 6 (Cannone 48,6), Ruzza 7.5, Pettinelli 8 (Sisi 75,6), Lamaro (capt) 8, Halafihi 7 (Steyn 64,6)
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Star man: Josh Adams (Wales)
Captain Biggar and Jones were winning their 100th and 150th Welsh caps, but they will want to forget this game and quickly. Wayne Pivac’s side had planned a bonus-point win in the hope of finishing third, but again their attack was directionless and their seven changes meant the side’s continuity was non-existent. They failed to score four tries and suffered humiliation at the death.
Josh Adams looked like he’d saved Wales from embarrassment with a fine try, but Italy went straight back up the other end and Padovani scored close to the posts.
Paolo Garbisi’s conversion with the last kick won it for Italy and Kieran Crowley’s players went wild with delight. Biggar stormed off, his day ruined, and threw his boots to the turf in frustration.
It also meant Jones has now lost on each of his 50th, 100th and 150th Welsh caps.
There were huge cheers for Biggar and Jones when their names were read out and when they appeared out of the tunnel. Neither wanted to go first, preferring to put the team before themselves, but Biggar must have lost the bet because out he came ahead of Jones.
The iconic lock soon followed, holding his two daughters who had ‘Dadi 150’ on their replica Wales shirts. It was a fine moment for two Welsh rugby greats to mark their respective milestones.
It all went downhill from there.
‘Go on Liam’ shouted one Wales fan when the action began, seemingly oblivious to the fact it was Johnny McNicholl and not Liam Williams at full-back for Wales.
Owen Watkin raced through to score the first try of the match for Wales on Saturday afternoon
Paolo Garbisi’s kicking helped Italy open up a first half lead at the Principality Stadium
McNicholl had a busy start. He was smashed by Monty Ioane and had to chase back after Dewi Lake – on his first Test start – got a line-out throw in a good attacking position all wrong.
With little other than pride and prize money riding on the encounter and the sun shining down, the game had a pre-season feel to it. Wales were tortoise-like out of the blocks.
There seemed little intensity to their play and their contact area work was off. Garbisi and Padovani both kicked long-range penalties to give Italy a shock lead.
Wales were stuttering. Their forwards couldn’t get on top against some strong Italian maul defence.
When the ball went wide, the Welsh back-line barely got out first gear.
McNicholl’s poor pass caused Louis Rees-Zammit to spill the ball. Pivac’s exasperation in the Wales coaching box was clear as the expletives flowed.
Hooker Dewi Lake scored Wales’ second try to give his side the lead in the second half
Rees-Zammit did burst clear, but he failed to pass to Adams who had the line gaping. When the ball was recycled back right, Uilisi Halaholo dropped it.
Lake then took a quick penalty, but he failed to tap the ball. As basic mistakes go, that is hard to top.
It took 28 minutes for Wales to wake up. At last, they went through some faces, Taulupe Faletau showing trademark deftness of touch to send Owen Watkin into space.
Watkin made Italy scrum-half Callum Braley look a fool as he stepped him on the way to the line.
Biggar converted, but Wales were coughing up too many cheap penalties – especially at the contact area – and it allowed Garbisi and Padovani to hit straight back with two more fine kicks.
Wales were just not at it.
The giant Ioane served notice of his intentions with a steaming run through midfield past some poor Welsh tackling. Italy then cross-kicked to the corner and towards McNicholl.
Josh Adams weaved his way through to score Wales’ third try with 12 minutes remaining
Padovani had the last laugh as Italy picked up their first Six Nations win since 2015
He beat Ioane to the ball, but took a heavy fall. Italy claimed a try as the ball fell loose and the melee was sent upstairs by Andrew Brace. TMO Joy Neville ruled out the score and Wales escaped.
Biggar’s language as he urged his team into the changing room for the break wasn’t for the faint of heart and Pivac swapped struggling prop Dillon Lewis for Leon Brown for the second half.
Wales’ contact area work was poor. With no specialist openside on the field, they again turned over possession at the start of the second half allowing Giovanni Pettinelli to break clear.
In the 46th minute, Italy passed up a golden opportunity. Again, Wales were all at sea at the contact area and lost possession. Ioane chipped ahead and regathered and a try looked certain.
Ioane backed himself to make the line and ignored the supporting Pettinelli, but he had not backed on a superb last-ditch tackle from Adams who saved his team’s bacon.
It was not the afternoon that Dan Biggar would have hoped for as he earned his 100th cap
Alun Wyn Jones also had a disappointing afternoon as he made his 150th appearance for Wales
Pivac had seen enough and hooked Halaholo and Seb Davies for Nick Tompkins and Ross Moriarty while Brown had an impact by helping Wales win a scrum penalty.
Biggar promptly kicked to the corner and over went Lake to ease some nerves. Biggar’s conversion went over off the upright. Still, Wales continued to shoot themselves in the foot.
Tompkins kicked good turnover possession away after Lake won possession. From his own in-goal area, Ioane led a remarkable and audacious counterattack.
Faletau had to get back to cover and Adams tried to support him, but Italy won the penalty and Garbisi put the Azzurri back ahead. Jones departed the scene to a standing ovation in what was his first game since October 30 and gave a small wave to the crowd, but the desperation with which he urged on his replacement Will Rowlands said everything about Wales’ plight. Biggar also switched to full-back with Callum Sheedy replacing McNicholl. Padovani then missed with another monster penalty effort.
Wayne Pivac’s side end their campaign with one victory after winning the tournament last year
Sheedy promptly followed Brown in producing a pass so poor many of the junior players in parks across Wales on Saturday morning could have done better.
All of a sudden, there were just 10 minutes left. Panic mode struck. The energetic Adams looked like he had come up trumps with a superb individual score.
Biggar converted and it looked like it had sucked the life out of Italy who began to tire. Wales pushed for a fourth, but there was still worse to come.
Italy counterattacked from deep through Ange Capuozzo. Padovani was in support and scored close enough to the posts to ensure Garbisi couldn’t miss.
Joy for Italy, utter desperation for Wales.
It was an afternoon to remember for Italy who upset the odds to triumph in Cardiff
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