Missed Chances Save Wales from More Rome Ruin; Gatland's Relief as Italy Blow It

Article excerpt

Byline: From Gary Fitzgerald AT The STAdIO flAmINIO, ROme

ITALY 16

WALES 24

WARREN GATLAND breathed a huge sigh of relief after his Wales team huffed and puffed and struggled their way past Italy with more fight and fury than flair and finesse.

The victory, thanks to tries from Morgan Stoddart and Sam Warburton, keeps alive the coach's slender hopes of winning the Six Nations title.

But Italy crossed the Welsh line through Gonzalo Canale and Sergio Parisse and Wales were left thanking their lucky stars that the home side missed four crucial shots at goal.

Had the Azzurri been blessed with even a half-decent kicker, this could easily have been a third defeat in Rome for Wales.

'It certainly wasn't pretty,' said centre Jamie Roberts. 'We made life so hard for ourselves. The Italians are no pushovers and you come to Rome knowing you are in for one hell of a physical battle. We knew from past hiccups here that our opponents may not be one of the glamour sides, but they can do you plenty of damage.

'They fronted up against us again and again and threatened to leave us with egg on our faces.'

Coach Gatland realised the flight back home could have been far more depressing had the Italians not fluffed important lines in the search for another big scalp.

'It was a close call in the end,' said the New Zealander. 'Not as emphatic as we had hoped, but a win is a win. We have won our last two away games since England and that is pleasing.

'I thought the guys did what was needed and nothing more. At times we were a little too loose with our play but we felt the best way of beating them was to attack and throw it around.

'We knew how strong the Italian pack would be and I thought our big guys held their own well.'

Captain Matthew Rees was just as concerned at the failure to impose themselves on a team who were there for the taking. 'Rome is no place for the meek,' he said. 'You have to be prepared for a real hard fight and go head on. We did that and got the result.'

The first 40 minutes were fast and furious, mixed with plenty of attacking prowess from both sides as well as some desperately poor defending.

An early Stephen Jones penalty was answered with a try from centre Canale, with lock Bradley Davies to blame for failing to reach his target with a pass aimed at Stoddart. The ball was kicked through by Canale, who then out-paced Davies to dive and ground the ball. The desperate Welshman tried to redeem the situation by pulling his rival back. …