Six Nations 2023 – Italy 17-29 Wales – Warren Gatland’s side register first win this year

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Wales withstood a late Italy fightback to register their first win of a troubled Six Nations in Rome.

Returning scrum-half Rhys Webb inspired the victory as Warren Gatland’s side triumphed in the basement battle to lift Wales to fifth in the table.

Scores from Rio Dyer, Liam Williams, Taulupe Faletau and a penalty try sealed the bonus-point win while Owen Williams kicked seven points.

Italy responded with tries from Sebastian Negri and Juan Ignacio Brex.

The Azzurri’s 10-year wait for a home Six Nations win continues after suffering a 25th successive tournament defeat in Rome.

Italy proved masters of their own downfall against a streetwise Wales outfit.

The home side suffered a yellow card in each half and Italy’s encouraging, inventive attacks were thwarted by their own poor handling mistakes.

It was a welcome first victory for Gatland in his second stint in charge of Wales after returning in the role in December 2022, when he replaced fellow New Zealander Wayne Pivac.

Gatland also maintained his perfect record as Wales coach against Italy with a 12th successive win.

Wales avenged the 2022 defeat by Italy in Cardiff as they celebrated a first Six Nations win in seven attempts.

It was also a first victory for captain Ken Owens in his new role following defeats against Ireland, Scotland and England.

Wales will be relieved after coming into the game with 12 defeats in the last 15 matches.

Gatland had suggested ahead of the game there was a significant split in the Wales squad after the players had eventually decided not to strike for the Six Nations match against England on 25 February because of issues over contracts.

Owens had admitted it had been a highly emotional time but insisted the players were fully focused on the Italy game and the victory backed up those sentiments.

Gatland’s side now travel to face France in Paris next Saturday in the tournament finale, while Italy play Scotland in Edinburgh.

Wales shuffle the pack again
Wales started the day bottom of the table and nursing the blows of three losses.

This raised the spectre of a first Wales Six Nations Wooden Spoon since 2003 and dropping out of the top 10 of the world rankings for the first time.

There was again no consistency in selection with six more changes to the starting side after 14 combined alterations in Gatland’s previous two teams.

In contrast, Italy had only made one enforced change with injured star full-back Ange Capuozzo replaced by Harlequins fly-half Tommaso Allan.

Wales started positively and Owen Williams opened the scoring with an early penalty to register his first points in international rugby.

Williams’ Ospreys half-back partner Webb was making his first Six Nations start since 2017 and made an immediate impact.

His clever chip kick bounced favourably for the chasing Dyer, who cantered away under the posts for his third try in his sixth international.

Williams slotted the conversion to build up a 10-point lead in the opening 10 minutes.

Italy wing Pierre Bruno had been caught out by the bounce of the ball for Dyer’s try and his wild attempted pass failed to reach fellow wing Edoardo Padovani for what would have been an almost guaranteed Italy reply.

Wales’ set-piece woes allowed Allan to kick a penalty for the hosts’ opening points.

The visitors bounced back when Wales prop Tomas Francis engineered a turnover, allowing Faletau to release a bounce pass for Liam Williams to brilliantly finish.

Italy had a chance to score with an Allan break, but his inside pass to Wales-born Stephen Varney went astray.

The Azzurri had again included the Welsh-speaking scrum-half and son of former Neath flanker Adrian, who qualified for Italy through his grandparents.

But he could not celebrate with a try against the land of his birth and the Italian attack was eventually repelled by a crucial turnover from full-back Williams.

Another probing Italy attack was again denied by a brilliant tackle from Owen Williams on centre Brex, who lost the ball forward over the Wales line.

Williams missed a long-range penalty effort after another Italy mistake which was hampering their attacking intent.

Wales, though, demonstrated a clinical edge they have sorely lacked recently by forcing a penalty try with Italy number eight Lorenzo Cannone shown a yellow card for collapsing an attacking maul.

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