Faletau, North and Tipuric prove crucial to a 38-18 victory in the Autumn Nations Cup

Old heads come to the fore as Wales beat Italy

George North simply loves scoring against Italy.

He now has ten tries in ten Tests against the Azzurri after crossing in the 69th minute of this Autumn Nations Cup fifth-place play-off at Parc y Scarlets that Wales won 38-18.

The 28-year-old has also moved ahead of Gareth Thomas to become Wales’ second highest try-scorer in history with 41. Only Shane Williams, with 58, has more and it will be interesting to see if North can overtake the iconic winger in the next few years.

North was one of several experienced players in the Welsh line-up to impress in this victory over Italy. It wasn’t smooth sailing for the hosts but they were clinical when they needed to be while Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau, who was named Player of the Match, were particularly impressive.

It was that back-row pair who combined to set up the first try after just seven minutes. Tipuric was put through a hole by Faletau and he in turn found Kieran Hardy in support.

Then Sam Parry burrowed over from close range after an initial break involving the back three of Josh Adams, Louis Rees-Zammit and Liam Williams. Wales were 14-0 up and all looked rosy.

However, their ill-discipline, particularly at the breakdown, and malfunctioning lineout allowed Italy to go in at the break trailing by just one point. And they would have a one-man advantage for the opening minutes of the second half.

Paolo Garbisi slotted two penalties either side of a converted Marco Zanon try that was created by a Carlo Canna grubber on Wales’ 22 following a driving lineout.

Garbisi’s second penalty also saw Adams yellow-carded for not releasing the tackled player, Stephen Varney. Wales had been penalised several times by referee Wayne Barnes for the same offence – all eight penalties Wales conceded in the first half were at the ruck – and Adams was sent to the sin-bin in the 38th minute.

Italy capitalised on that man advantage early in the second half. Jacopo Trulla launched a counter-attack down one side of the pitch, then the ball was spread to the other wing where Johan Meyer beat Louis Rees-Zammit and bounced Ioan Lloyd to score in the corner.

Tipuric and Faletau helped swing momentum back in Wales’ favour as they combined again with neat offloads to send Gareth Davies into space and the replacement scrum-half sprinted over from the Italian ten-metre line.

Then a turnover in the 69th minute proved crucial. Italy decided to attack from their own half, Wales turned over the ball and quickly spread it wide from Jonathan Davies to North to Adams to Jonah Holmes, who took play to a couple of metres out.

North then picked up the ball from the ruck and powered over. Callum Sheedy’s conversion made it 31-18 with ten minutes to go.

Old heads come to the fore as Wales beat Italy

Over time: George North burrows over for his 41st Wales try (Getty Images)

It was fitting that Faletau and Tipuric wrapped up the scoring, the former breaking the Italian line and then passing to the latter to run in Wales’ fifth try.

It was far from a perfect performance from Wales but it should relieve some of the pressure on Wayne Pivac, who has built his squad depth ahead of next year’s Six Nations.

As for Italy, they end 2020 with nine straight defeats – the first time they have failed to win a match in a calendar year in the pro era.

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