Wales made it four from four in the 2021 Guinness Six Nations on Saturday afternoon as Italy were comfortably swept aside at the Stadio Olimpico.
Wayne Pivac had largely stuck with the side that beat England two weeks previously with only Adam Beard rested, while Kieran Hardy was ruled out through injury, meaning Cory Hill and Gareth Davies started against an Italian side without a win in the competition for six years.
That showed in the first 15 minutes as, realistically, Wales already had the game sewn up. Ill-discipline from the home side allowed Dan Biggar to kick a penalty before a quick tap from Gareth Davies was prevented by Luca Bigi who was promptly shown a yellow card.
With a man advantage the men in red set about putting Italy to the sword as first a long Biggar miss-pass put Josh Adams over, and then Adams made ground on the left before the ball was moved back to the right wing where Louis Rees-Zammit put Taulupe Faletau over.
Back up to a full complement of players the Azzurri were still continually on the wrong side of referee Wayne Barnes, especially at the defensive breakdown, and Wales kicked to the corner twice with the driving maul seeing Ken Owens over the line on both occasions. Two Dan Biggar conversions made the score 0-27 at the half-hour mark with the bonus point in the back pocket.
Italy did finally make it into the opposition 22 after 30 minutes of conceding penalties and tries, but a strong Jon Davies rip in contact turned the ball over, and another Italian handling error on halfway allowed George North to get free. His offload found Biggar who passed wide for Rees-Zammit to score but the final pass was forward.
Instead the next try had to wait until early in the second half as a first phase strike play saw Davies get his hands through a tackle to offload for North to beat the last defender and score. Biggar converted and Wayne Pivac promptly started emptying the bench with key senior players being offered the chance to put their feet up early.
As a result the game lost a bit of quality into the middle part of the second half, but there were still talking points as Monty Ioane scored a superb individual try to get Italy on the scoreboard, Josh Adams tried to slide into the corner but couldn’t get the ball down before going into touch, and Marco Riccioni was shown a yellow card for leading into contact with his forearm.
Once again Wales were able to take advantage of having the extra man as first some big carries from Justin Tipuric, Willis Halaholo and Josh Navidi took us into the red zone, and then some sharp Navidi hands put Callum Sheedy over for his first international try, before a few minutes later Louis Rees-Zammit intercepted a hopeful Italian miss-pass to run in an 80 metre try.
Sheedy converted both scores for a 7-48 lead and that’s how it stayed as the game rather petered out. Wales will be happy to have achieved the bonus point win, played well and not obviously picked up any injuries, but questions will continue to be asked about the performance levels of Italy who never put up any resistance against a Welsh side largely in second gear.
Wayne Pivac’s men now roll on to Paris where a shot at the Grand Slam awaits. We couldn’t, could we?