Wales defied the filthy weather to extend their winning run
22 February 2013, 08:50 pm ::
By Alex Bywater
Wales win mud bath battle
Italy's traditional Mediterranean climate was nowhere to be seen but it failed to stop Wales' unbeaten Six Nations run.
In an absolute mud bath in Viterbo, Wales defied filthy conditions, caused by persistent heavy rain, to score three first half tries in a 25-10 win.
Daniel Thomas, the impressive Rhodri Williams and a penalty try gave Wales a 19-3 half time lead and after weathering a second half Italian storm, the boot of Sam Davies guided Wales home.
After the game had survived a pitch inspection and a 45 minute kick-off delay, it took just 90 seconds for Wales to get the scoreboard rolling.
Davies kicked off and when the ball was unsurprisingly knocked on in the atrocious conditions, Wales took advantage.
A quick tap penalty from scrum half Williams got his side on the front foot with flanker Thomas squirming over for the first score of the game. The try was converted by Davies as Danny Wilson's men made a fast start.
With the ball resembling a bar of soap and the players almost unrecognisable in the mud, it was no surprise to see both sides trying to play for territory. Each fly half was putting boot to ball on almost every occasion but it was Wales who were dominating territory.
Davies, understandably given the mud, was wide with a penalty effort but his side were on top. And although opposite number Edoardo Padovani got Italy back into it with a penalty, it was only a matter of time before Wales extended their advantage.
With running rugby almost non existant - Ashley Evans' effort the only exception, Wales used the scrum as their main weapon. After earning penalty after penalty inside the Italian 22, captain Ellis Jenkins opted for the scrum each time and was rewarded when Williams picked up and dived over in the corner.
Davies missed the conversion but when another scrum collapsed, the referee had no choice but to award Wales a penalty try. With the simple conversion added, Wales went into the break with a deserved lead.
The second half was more of the same - wet, muddy and scrappy. There was little either team could do about it in truth but through the driving rain, Wales' defence held strong.
Padovani had a second penalty chance but saw his effort drift wide of the right hand upright on what was a difficult night for the kickers. And to be fair to the home side, their second half response was impressive.
They pounded the Welsh line with wave after wave of attack but even when it looked like a score was imminent, Jenkins and co somehow managed to hold the ball up. They even survived what was an inevitable yellow card when front rower Nicky Thomas was sent to the sin bin but Williams cleared Welsh lines.
With the home side having 80 per cent of the second half possession and Wales down to 13 men with Jenkins the second man sent to the bin, the pressure finally told as Maxime Mbanda crashed through Davies' tackle to score. Michele Campagnaro converted as Italy narrowed their deficit.
Although they conceded a try, Wales had weathered the storm impressively and when Davies responded with a penalty, Wales led by 12 points with 10 minutes left.
And another kick from Davies made it three wins from three with thoughts now turning to a possible Grand Slam.