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Italy 9 Wales 26

By lssport  |  Posted: February 23, 2013

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ROB Howley's band of happy travellers became the first Wales side in 34 years to win four successive away games in the championship.

Not since the heady days of the 1970s have Wales managed such a feat.

Second-half tries from Jonathan Davies and Alex Cuthbert and 16 points from Leigh Halfpenny sealed the deal in the Italian capital, with Howley's team deserving their triumph.

It was Wales's second biggest win in Rome and they will head for Murrayfield on March 9 with their Six Nations title hopes very much alive.

Halfpenny was named the official man of the match in Rome after a superlative display of goal-kicking that saw him land six out of seven attempts in dismal conditions.

There were also big performances from Ryan Jones and Adam Jones, who returned to form with a dominant scrummaging show. Alongside Jones, Justin Tipuric and Toby Faletau came up with big defensive shifts.

The match was far from a classic, blighted by conservative play, but Wales will not mind having got the job done.

It was all about rolling up the sleeves and front up at forward, and in the two Jones, Tipuric and Faletau the visitors had the men for the occasion.

And while they didn't create much, they are developing a knack of taking chances, with Cuthbert's a fine score that involved decoy runners and a sweetly timed pass from Dan Biggar.

The two sides had to contend with a sodden pitch after heavy rain swept through Rome in the hours before the game.

Leigh Halfpenny kicked Wales into a 3-0 lead with a penalty, but conditions were difficult and there were plenty of errors on both sides before Kris Burton punished a scrum transgression by the visitors to level the scores.

That problem had occurred on Gethin Jenkins's side.

But on the other side of the scrum Adam Jones had started as if he had point to prove, winning a free-kick and two penalties as he responded to criticism of his display against France.

Jenkins also won a penalty after forcing Martin Castrogiovanni up in the air at a set-piece, Italy clearly struggling to deal with Wales's power.

After 20 minutes, it was 9-3 to Wales, Halfpenny having made light of the atrocious conditions to fire over two more kicks, the second a superbly struck effort from 45 metres.  

The rain was torrential, making handling difficult, but the visitors had half a chance when Dan Biggar claimed a high kick and released Cuthbert. The big wing started to pick up speed and had appeared to outpace the first line of cover, only for Gonzalo Canale to bring him down with an ankle tap.

The match was no spectacle, with errors continuing to blight play and referee Romain Poite's whistle dominating. Burton trimmed Wales's lead to three points with his second penalty, but at the home of Roma and Lazio football clubs, a beautiful game this wasn't.

The second half started with two chances – one missed, the other taken.

At one end a chip over the defence from Burton created a gilt-edged opportunity but Tommaso Benvenuti, under pressure from Biggar, couldn't hold onto the ball.

Wales showed Italy how it was done minutes later.

Biggar set up a good attacking position by reclaiming his own kick ahead on the floor, the ball being worked back to Mike Phillips, whose kick over the top caused panic in the Italian defence, Burton and Edoardo Gori guilty of Keystone Kops defence as they failed to deal with the threat.

Jonathan Davies, who had barely touched the ball before then, picked up  and sauntered across from short strange.

And when Castrogiovanni was binned after another scrum-offence, Wales pressed home their numerical advantage with a peach of a try.

It saw the forwards take play on with a strong drive before the ball was swept left, where Biggar opened the defence with a beautifully timed pass that put Cuthbert steaming through for the score.

Numerous substitutions meant Wales lost their impetus in the final ten minutes, but they are building nicely and will go to Scotland with confidence.

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