Italy stun Wales in Six Nations spoon battle


Italy completed their best Six Nations campaign with a 24-21 win over a desperately poor Wales who scored three late tries in Cardiff on Saturday but slipped to a fifth successive defeat and finished bottom of the standings.

While Italy are seemingly on the up, it’s the first time in 21 years Wales have finished bottom of the standings.

Italy scored tries through winger Monty Ioane and fullback Lorenzo Pani as they won the collisions, were better at the breakdown and overpowered the Welsh scrum in arguably their most accomplished ever Six Nations performance.

The visitors led 11-0 at halftime, the fourth game in this year’s Six Nations that Wales have failed to score in a half.

Wales created momentum early in the second half through winger Rio Dyer and scrumhalf Tomos Williams, but it was ended when lock Adam Beard was penalised for a neck role at a ruck.

The unforced error was compounded when Italy went up the other end of the pitch and scored their second try thanks to a brilliant run from Pani as the visitors cut through their hosts out wide.

Wales had a route back into the game when they scored their first points on 64 minutes when Dee burrowed over the line and got the ball down under heavy Italian pressure, before Rowlands and Grady crossed to give the scoreline a more respectable look.

Wales’ young squad will lose more experience with retiring stalwart centre George North, who limped off late on, bowing out of test rugby with a demoralising defeat as they crossed for late scores through hooker Elliot Dee, lock Will Rowlands and centre Mason Grady, but were second best on the day.

Italy have two wins and a draw from their five games for the first time in the Six Nations, and 11 points, the most they have managed in a single campaign as their revival under new Argentine coach Gonzalo Quesada gathers momentum.

“It means everything or us,” Italy captain Michele Lamaro said. “But we want to achieve more, we have had a good tournament, but we know we can do even better than this.

“We have changed the mindset which we take onto the pitch, we have got lots of confidence. We work for each other. We have been through difficult moments and now we must celebrate these good ones.

“Two games does not define a team, we still have to be a lot more consistent in what we are doing and to be competitive with every team in the competition.”

Warren Gatland’s Wales have now lost 12 of their last 13 Six Nations fixtures and there will inevitably be questions about where he is taking this side despite the retirement of so many experienced players.

“Complete disappointment, no disrespect to Italy but we want to be better than them,” Wales’ 21-year-old captain Dafydd Jenkins said.

“You like to think that under pressure we would rise to the occasion. But this playing group will give everything, I promise you the future is bright. We have to get better as players and we will.”

It was a seventh home Six Nations loss in a row for Wales, their worst ever run and the first time they have lost all five games in the competition and finished bottom of the table since 2003.