Wales shoot to the top of Six Nations standings

Wales rocketed to the top of the Six Nations standings by thumping Italy 20-61 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday.

A hat-trick of tries from George North in the second-half sparked Wales who now lead England by 16 points in the standings.

Leading by a point at 13-14 at half North’s treble plus tries by among others captain Sam Warburton could have earned Wales a third Six Nations title in four years.

Their win which took them on to eight points ended France’s slim hopes of winning the crown, as even a win over England later will see them reach six points.

Warren Gatland’s men travelled to the Stadio Olimpico knowing only a win with a massive points difference would give them a chance of overhauling title rivals England and Ireland.

And after a shaky first-half performance Wales turned on the style to score seven tries in a stunningly one-sided second-half.

The result has fired Wales to the top of the Six Nations table to heap pressure on England and Ireland, who are in action later, respectively, at home to France and away to Scotland.

Italy were without influential captain Sergio Parisse after he failed to recover in time from an ankle injury suffered in the 29-0 rout to France in Rome last week.

And despite welcoming Kelly Haimona back to the fly-half position, the New-Zealand born player was forced off early with a suspected arm fracture.

Italy rebounded from that setback, however, to keep the Welsh on a tight rein in the opening period with some confident play which, on several occasions, tested the Welsh defence.

Italy responded to Jamie Roberts’s 18th minute try minutes later with Giovanbattista Venditti touching down and only a penalty on the stroke of half-time from fly-half Dan Biggar restored the visitors lead.

Wales, however, emerged a different team after the interval and when Italy gave away a penalty for hands in the ruck scrum-half Rhys Webb reacted quickly.

His tap penalty set Liam Williams free to break through the defence and touch down — for only his first try in his last 11 tests — with Biggar slotting over an easy conversion.

Two minutes later North touched down after powering through unhindered from Liam Williams’s pass on the left flank — Biggar converted for 28-13.

Italy suffered a blow when centre Andrea Masi was sinbinned for an off-the-ball tackle, and Wales capitalised immediately.

After some great work by Liam Williams again, North bundled over the try line with Biggar again on target with the boot for a 35-13 lead.

North rounded off his hat-trick on 59 minutes when he danced through the Italian defence after some great work by the Welsh forward line.

Biggar took the score to 42-13 with an easy conversion in front of the posts.

Italy’s woes deepended when Quintin Geldenhuys was sent to the sinbin for dragging down the Welsh maul, and Wales punished the hosts.

Italy’s defence was nowhere when Webb picked up from the maul near the tryline and sold a dummy before holding off Leonardo Sarto to bundle over.

Biggar’s conversion attempt drifted just wide, but Wales were soon back on the rampage, with flanker Sam Warburton and then Scott Williams touching down, the latter scoring a stunning try on 72 minutes after a move which began when Italy gave up possession from the lineout at the Welsh tryline.

Biggar took the lead to 61-13 with the conversion, and it looked likely to stay that way until Sarto finished off a great run down the left flank to touch over, with Orquera hitting a difficult conversion from the lefthand touchline.

Final Score Italy 20 (13) Wales 61 (14)

Scorers

Italy
Tries – J Roberts, L Williams, G North (3), R Webb, S Warburton, S Williams
Pen – K Haimona, L Orquera
Con – D Biggar (6)
Drop –
Cards –

Wales
Tries – G Venditti, L.Sarto
Pen – L Halfpenny (2), D Biggar
Con – L Orquera 2
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee
: Chris Pollock (NZL)

Teams

Italy

Luke McLean; Leonardo Sarto, Luca Morisi, Andrea Masi, Giovanbattista Venditti; Kelly Haimona, Edoardo Gori; Samuela Vunisa, Mauro Bergamasco, Francesco Minto; Joshua Furno, George Biagi; Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini (capt), Michele Rizzo

Replacements: Andrea Manici, Alberto De Marchi, Dario Chistolini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Roberto Barbieri, Guglielmo Palazzani, Luciano Orquera, Enrico BacchinCoach: Jacques Brunel (FRA)

Wales

Leigh Halfpenny; George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Taulupe Faletau, Sam Warburton (capt), Dan Lydiate; Alun Wyn Jones, Luke Charteris; Aaron Jarvis, Scott Baldwin, Rob Evans

Replacements: Ken Owens, Rhys Gill, Scott Andrews, Jake Ball, Justin Tipuric, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Scott Williams

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