Wales U20 got the U20 Six Nations off to a winning start as some strong defensive work and the boot of Sam Costelow got Ioan Cunningham’s men over the line.
With many of the players taking the field for the first time since before the coronavirus pandemic began last March, it was a slightly sluggish start from a starting XV that only sported four players returning from the 2020 edition of the tournament.
Italy dominated the first 15 minutes, although some superb rearguard action from the home side led by Harri Deaves kept them at bay, as both sides went down to 14 men when Garyn Phillips and Lorenzo Cannone were sent to the sin bin after a bit of back-and-forth.
Eventually the away side did get over though as a well-worked attacking five-metre lineout move saw Nicola Piantella take the ball off the top, shape to go for a driving maul and then slide possession to tighthead prop Ion Neculai to power over for an unconverted score.
However, Wales hit straight back as two minutes later a five-metre attacking lineout of our own saw us actually set up a driving maul and start a march to the line, only for Piantella to drag the maul down, receive a yellow card and watch referee Nika Amashukeli head under the posts to award a penalty try.
The Georgian official was the focal point of the first half, awarding 22 penalties in all as the game struggled to get any flow, although it wasn’t entirely the referee’s fault as the players on both sides failed to adapt to way the game was being officiated.
In the end though it was Wales who largely came out on top as Filippo Drago was yellow carded for dissent and Sam Costelow was able to kick two penalties for a 13-5 half-time lead, before adding three more points early in the second half.
Italy attempted to launch a comeback on the back of this, pushing hard in midfield and forcing the referee to show another yellow card, this time to Deaves when he prevented a quick tap penalty being taken. Manfredi Albanese cut the lead to just eight points.
However, Wales were in no mood to let the game slip in wet conditions at the Arms Park, with Costelow striking a drop goal sweetly between the uprights before two more penalties helped the hosts to a 25-8 final score in the capital.
A tough game which perhaps underlined the fact that many players had not played for 18 months and were very inexperienced at this level, but a win is a win and a good base to build towards a clash with Ireland on Friday.