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Italy stun Wales in historic Six Nations win in Cardiff

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Wales ended their Guinness Six Nations campaign in a humiliating defeat as Italy stunned them 22-21 at the Principality Stadium.

Last season’s champions were hoping to give milestone men Dan Biggar and Alun Wyn Jones a day to remember.

Skipper Biggar became the seventh Welshman to have 100 caps, while Jones earned 150 caps for Wales, becoming the first player in international rugby union history to reach that number.

But the script was torn up by an Italian side who clinched their first Six Nations win in seven years, ending a run of 36 consecutive defeats in the competition.

It was also their first triumph on Welsh soil, ending a run of 16 consecutive defeats against last season’s Six Nations champions.

Italy clinched a spectacular triumph with a minute remaining when full-back Ange Capuozzo attacked from within their own half and Edoardo Padovani called in a try which Paolo Garbisi converted to spark wild scenes of Azzurri celebrations.

Padovani had earlier scored two and Garbisi three penalties as Wales remained down in Cardiff despite perfect conditions and glorious sunshine.

Owen Watkin, Dewi Lake and Josh Adams all scored tries for Wales, with Biggar converting all three, but it will go down as one of the darkest days in their history after losing to Six Nations regulars.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac made seven changes including a first Test start for Hooker Lake after a narrow loss to France last time out, while full-back Johnny McNicholl, center Uilisi Halaholo and prop Dillon Lewis were also among the call-ups.

Italy got off to a good start, winger Monty Ioane put McNicholl on the defensive early and Wales needed 10 minutes before they could find themselves in a dangerous position inside the Azzurri’s 22.

But that opportunity was squandered after Lake brought down an attacking line-up on his first Test start and Italy restored possession to the field before Garbisi took a 48-yard penalty to open the scoring.

Padovani then doubled Italy’s lead and adjusted Garbisi’s long-range shot, and there was an expression of lethargy in Wales, punctuated when winger Louis Rees-Zammit spilled a well-aimed McNicholl pass.

Halaholo followed suit, dropping the ball after a powerful break between Rees and Zammit, ending a dismal opening quarter for last season’s Six Nations champions.

Wales finally stirred with 12 minutes remaining when Watkin delivered a high-class finish after an impressive approach work from Rees-Zammit and fellow winger Adams before Biggar’s conversion made it 7-6.

But the lead was short-lived as Wales’ poor discipline gave Italy chances from distance and Garbisi and Padovani each took penalties from distance for three minutes, giving Italy a five-point lead.

Wales proved their own worst enemy, spitting out possession through poor handling and poor positioning, with Italy needing no second invitation to capitalize on such elementary errors.

As half-time approached, Ioane brought them back into shape by breaking straight from his own half and Italy finished strongly to secure a 12-7 break lead.

Wales manager Wayne Pivac made a change at half-time, sending on brace Leon Brown for Lewis, while Nick Tompkins replaced Halaholo within five minutes of the restart as Ioane was then denied just one attempt by Adams’ brilliant cover.

However, Wales took the lead after 52 minutes when they drove a close range line and Lake touched down for a try which Biggar converted.

But the outstanding Ioane responded with an exciting counterattack, then Wales passed within their own 22 and Garbisi completed his penalty hat-trick to make it 15:14.

Jones played an hour in his first appearance more than four months after suffering a shoulder injury and was replaced by Will Rowlands and Callum Sheedy took over flying half duties when Biggar switched to full-back in place of McNicholl.

Adams exuded a little magic with his decisive result, but it was a memorable performance from Wales that gave little cause for optimism ahead of a three-day tour of South Africa in July that saw Padovani and Garbisi work together to end their misery.

https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/six-nations/italy-stun-wales-with-historic-six-nations-victory-in-cardiff-41465897.html Italy stun Wales in historic Six Nations win in Cardiff

Fry Electronics Team

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