April 23, 2021

Wales make it FOUR wins from FOUR in Six Nations to book date with Grand Slam destiny in Paris

5 min read

It is a long way to go for a training session, but at least it was sunny.

Wales probably have had a tougher time of things at their Vale of Glamorgan hotel on a Tuesday afternoon than they did in Rome – but nonetheless they clinically thrashed Italy to set up a Grand Slam shot.

Scoring seven tries they sauntered past Italy, who offered precious little yet again aside from a Monty Ioane converted try, as two from Ken Owens, and one each for Josh Adams, Taulupe Faletau, George North, Callum Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit completed the rout.

Wales cruised to a huge 7-48 victory over Italy to book a date with destiny against France

Wales cruised to a huge 7-48 victory over Italy to book a date with destiny against France

Wales cruised to a huge 7-48 victory over Italy to book a date with destiny against France

France in Paris next, for perhaps the most unlikely of clean sweeps based on how poor Wales were in 2020, will be a world away from this.

Then again, in this position in the Six Nations era the Welsh never fail to complete the Slam.

Asked about the extraordinary turnaround from last year, in which beating Italy was about as good as it got for him, Wayne Pivac said: ‘Chalk and cheese, aren’t they? Look, we know exactly the pain we went through in the autumn, they certainly weren’t the results we were after.

‘You’re seeing some of the players who got opportunities are that much better for it.

‘This Championship was always going to be a line in the sand for us and we’re very pleased to be four from four, obviously, with an opportunity we can finally talk about which is trying to win the Grand Slam.’

As bad as Italy were, Wales put them to the sword.

‘We talked about being ruthless and clinical,’ added Pivac.

‘We came for five points and we got five, so we’re certainly happy with that.’ 

Josh Adams went over early for Wales punishing Italy for a yellow card to captain Luca Bigi

Josh Adams went over early for Wales punishing Italy for a yellow card to captain Luca Bigi

Josh Adams went over early for Wales punishing Italy for a yellow card to captain Luca Bigi

And having now scored 17 tries in the tournament – equalling the national record – the boss said Wales will continue to attack.

‘We like playing a brand of rugby where we give ourselves the opportunity to score plenty of tries,’ he said.

‘It’s part of our game, and we want the attack to keep getting better and better.’

Looking before the game odds of an Italy win stood at 25-1 – extraordinary in a two-horse race – but even that seemed generous after half an hour.

By that mark Wales already had a bonus point for scoring four tries – only two minutes short of their record of 28 minutes against Scotland in 2005.

Owens had two of them, almost doubling his Welsh Test try tally in an afternoon, and it was all so achingly easy that you could almost hear the sharpening of knives at CVC towers.

Welsh hooker Ken Owens battled his way over the line twice for a first half brace of tries

Welsh hooker Ken Owens battled his way over the line twice for a first half brace of tries

Welsh hooker Ken Owens battled his way over the line twice for a first half brace of tries

With the private equity firm investing £365million in the Six Nations this week, becoming a one-seventh partner, you wondered how long such a cut-throat business would want to be associated with such a failing nation.

Italy do not improve as the tournament goes on. They do not turn up at home. They do not offer resistance. They lose and lose and lose again. This is 31 in a row. No win still in Rome since 2013 and none at all since 2015.

The result is always inevitable these days, as the statistics become grimmer by the game.

The die was cast after just seven minutes. A rapid start and two penalties conceded by Italian captain Luca Bigi saw him sin-binned. And with Ioane sacrificed for hooker Oliviero Fabiani Wales used the extra space out wide well, Dan Biggar floating a fine pass to Adams who scored.

Next Rees-Zammit was in acres of space but unselfishly found Faletau on the right wing for try number two. Italy boss Franco Smith already had his head in his hands – so did most watching his terrible team.

Their tackles were softer than gelato, making Wales seem stronger than a double espresso.

Taulupe Faletau crashed over in the corner to secure a bonus point for Wales in first half

Taulupe Faletau crashed over in the corner to secure a bonus point for Wales in first half

Taulupe Faletau crashed over in the corner to secure a bonus point for Wales in first half

Owens’ first try came from a rolling maul which splintered the Azzurri spectacularly. His second needed more finishing. The hooker tripped out of a maul but collected his feet and reached out for the line.

Biggar hit two of the four conversions to add to his early penalty as Wales only fell short of their record tally for a Six Nations half, of 30, when Rees-Zammit had his try disallowed as Biggar passed to him forward.

Never mind, though, as 27-0 soon became 34-0 after the break. This time Jonathan Davies picked off two hapless defenders, North ran a short line off him, received the pop and ran one in from 40 metres out.

It was his eighth Test in a row in which he has scored against Italy and drew him level with Shane Williams as Wales’ top Six Nations scorer with his 22nd.

Pivac then took him off for a rest before France next week, and so Willis Halaholo entered.

George North added a fifth try for Wales in the second half with a powerful run through

George North added a fifth try for Wales in the second half with a powerful run through

George North added a fifth try for Wales in the second half with a powerful run through

Ioane did manage a fine score down the left wing which Paolo Garbisi converted, ending more than a two-hour wait for Wales to concede a point against the Italians in three matches.

Italy are such low-hanging fruit these days that it almost feels unkind picking them off – maybe Adams felt sorry for them as he gave up a chance to score another, Garbisi dragging his foot in touch on the wing just in time.

Marco Riccioni ruined that hard work though by elbowing Halaholo in the throat while carrying, Wayne Barnes sending him to the sin-bin.

It had been 18 minutes since a Welsh try – but with Italy floundering substitute Sheedy danced in on the hour mark, taking a flicked pass from Josh Navidi, and he converted as Wales passed 40.

Rees-Zammit must have felt a bit left out with it raining tries in Rome, but he was not to miss out for long.

Louis Rees-Zammit raced away after an interception to continue his hot Six Nations form

Louis Rees-Zammit raced away after an interception to continue his hot Six Nations form

Louis Rees-Zammit raced away after an interception to continue his hot Six Nations form

The 20-year-old sensation picked off Carlo Canna’s wild pass by his own 22 and showed his blistering pace to whizz in for his fourth try of the tournament 65 minutes in. Sheedy converted.

As the time ran out in Rome the fake crowd started singing Bread of Heaven.

‘Feed me til I want no more’ – an apt sentiment for Wales’ day at work.

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