Wales cruise past Italy
Second-half tries from Jonathan Davies and Alex Cuthbert helped Wales to a 26-9 victory over Italy in the Six Nations in Rome.
A severe downpour before kick-off hindered the handling ability of both sides through the first half, with Leigh Halfpenny adding three penalties for the visitors and Kristopher Burton responding with two for the hosts.
Wales though stepped up the intensity in the second half and were worthy winners as Italy struggled to find a breakthrough past the advancing Welsh defence, Burton twice settling for drop goal attempts that both sailed wide.
The result will further lift Welsh spirits with their second victory on the road in this year's championship, leaving them in contention for the title should other results go their way over the coming weeks.
Wales opened the scoring through a penalty from Leigh Halfpenny following a series of drives in the Italian 22, as both sides gradually adjusted to the difficult conditions.
The Italians won the first battle at the scrum, Martin Castrogiovanni getting on top of Gethin Jenkins to create a kicking opportunity for new fly-half Burton to level the scores at 3-3 after ten minutes.
Wales hit back however on the next engage to hand Halfpenny another opportunity for points, with the full-back regaining the lead with a penalty.
Further dominance at the scrum handed Wales another penalty chance after 18 minutes, with Halfpenny duly converting for a 9-3 lead.
A penalty to Italy on the half-way line saw Burton opt for the corner rather than attempting the long-range shot at goal, but his execution was poor and fortunately for the Italians a handling error from Alex Cuthbert handed Italy an attacking scrum five metres from the Welsh line.
Fast defence from Wales limited the Italian's progression metres out from the try line, with Burton opting for a drop-goal attempt which missed narrowly to the left.
Another surge of pummelling rain created more handling errors from both sides - before Italy chipped back at the Welsh lead through a penalty from the scrum.
A charged down box kick on Edoardo Gori by Jenkins put the Italians under pressure in their own 22, with Wales winning a consequent penalty at the breakdown to go 12-6 in front as half-time approached.
The hosts had the better opening period in the second half, keeping possession in the Welsh half, with Burton sending another drop goal attempt wide of the posts.
Italy then floundered trying to regather a chip over the top into their 22 and Jonathan Davies pounced for Wales to snatch the game's opening try.
A probing kick from Andrea Masi put Wales under pressure with a lineout metres from the try line as Italy searched for a foothold in the second half with the score at 16-6.
Burton then clocked three more points after a penalty to bring the Azzurri within seven.
Halfpenny responded after another dominant scrum inside the Italian half, extending the gap once more to ten points with half an hour remaining.
More disruption from the Italian scrum led to referee Romain Poite sending captain Castrogiovanni to the sin-bin, and Wales wasted no time to extend the gap on the scoreboard.
A well-taken line by Alex Cuthbert cut through a gap in the Italian's defence, with the Cardiff Blues winger going over in the left corner for the second Welsh try of the afternoon to make the score 26-9.
Another penalty opportunity for Wales presented itself with Italy down to 14 men - with Ryan Jones opting to go for the corner rather than the extra points, but Wales were unable to capitalise.
Neither side were able though to add to the scoreboard as Wales kept their hopes of a possible title alive dependent on England's result against France, whilst Italy's stunning victory over France now feels more and more like a one-off success.
Pens: Burton 2
Tries: Davies, Cuthbert
Cons: Halfpenny 2
Pens: Halfpenny 4
Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovambattista Venditti, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Gonzalo Canale, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Kristopher Burton, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Ratu Manoa Vosawai, 7 Simone Favaro, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Francesco Minto, 4 Antonio Pavanello, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (c) 1 Andrea Lo Cicero.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Quintin Geldenhuys, 20 Paul Derbyshire, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Gonzalo Garcia.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ryan Jones (c), 5 Ian Evans, 4 Andrew Coombs, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Scott Williams.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)