Italy condemn Wales to Six Nations whitewash

The Azzurri outclassed Wales to seal a best-ever Six Nations campaign of two wins and a draw.

Italy condemned Wales to a Six Nations whitewash for the first time in 21 years with a 24-21 win in Cardiff on Saturday.

Defeat also meant Wales finished last in a Six Nations for the first time since that woeful 2003 campaign and was a sad way for George North, who went off injured late on, to bow out from Test rugby in the powerhouse back’s final match before international retirement.

But for Italy, victory meant they had recorded their best return in a Six Nations of two wins and a draw, with this result following last weekend’s 31-29 defeat of Scotland in Rome and a 13-13 thriller with France.

Avoiding the ‘wooden spoon’

It also ensured the Azzurri avoided a ninth-straight ‘wooden spoon’ in the tournament.

Italy scored fine tries through Monty Ioane and Lorenzo Pani, in for the injured Ange Capuozzo, as they led 18-0 until the 65th minute.

But Wales hit back when hooker Elliot Dee forced his way over from close range.

Another Garbisi penalty and one from replacement Martin Page-Relo all but sealed the game for Italy at 24-7 with 10 minutes left.

Wales then managed two further tries through replacements Will Rowlands and Mason Grady but those scores came too late to deny Italy a deserved victory.

Garbisi kicked Italy into an early 6-0 lead after the fly-half’s forwards forced Wales into conceding two penalties for holding on at rucks.

Wales, overpowered up front in a 45-24 defeat by France last weekend, then conceded a scrum penalty.

After several drives by the forwards, slick handling by Italy’s backs created an overlap on the right for Ioane, coming across from the left wing, to score his 13th try in 30 Tests.

Garbisi made a hash of what should have been a simple conversion, but Italy still led 11-0 with 20 minutes played.

Further Italy dominance up front allowed Garbisi to kick a penalty for an attacking line-out inside Wales’s 22.

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Italy, however, lost possession and Wales counter-attacked only for Azzurri captain Michele Lamaro to win a penalty at the breakdown.

Poor first half

Wales’s poor first half was summed up when a lack of communication between Sam Costelow and Cameron Winnett saw both backs go for the same high ball and knock-on to gift Italy a scrum in the hosts’ 22.

Wales briefly threatened at the start of the second half before Italy, coached by former Argentina playmaker Gonzalo Quesada, pulled further clear.

From a line-out, Ioane’s fine angled run saw him burst clear through the defence two years after Capuozzo’s brilliant break led to match-winning late try for Edoardo Padovani in Cardiff.

This time around, Ioane found Pani and the full-back sidestepped Josh Adams in style before sprinting in for a try. Garbisi converted and Italy were 18-0 ahead in the 46th minute as boos rang round the Principality Stadium from the frustrated home fans.

Wales almost hit back on the hour mark through Tomos Williams but the scrum-half was tackled superbly in sight of Italy’s try-line by replacement Ross Vintcent.

Welsh supporters at last had something to cheer about when Dee, after several video replays, was awarded a 65th-minute try.

But Garbisi and Page-Relo’s penalties effectively sealed the game in a match where Italy centre Juan Ignacio-Brex was outstanding in defence.

Rowlands went over for a converted try as North limped off injured to a standing ovation before Grady crossed for a mere consolation score.

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