Josh Adams continues his prolific scoring as Wales open the 2020 Six Nations with a 42-0 defeat of Italy. Watch the cheeky pass by Dan Biggar that helped set them on their way
Hat-trick for Adams as Wales thrash Italy
Josh Adams bagged a hat-trick as Wales launched the Wayne Pivac era in emphatic style with a bonus-point Guinness Six Nations victory over Italy at the Principality Stadium.
The Cardiff Blues wing scored twice in 13 first-half minutes to take the game beyond Italy’s reach and touched down in the game’s final play to notch his treble. It takes his try tally to 14 in just 22 Tests, the most prolific scoring rate in international rugby over the past 12 months.
On a day that ticked almost all the boxes for the defending champions, there was also a beautifully taken try on debut from replacement Nick Tompkins and a 40th Test try by his fellow centre George North, whose performance in the unfamiliar 13 position went swimmingly against admittedly modest opposition.
The 42-point margin is Wales’ second biggest win against Italy, who were left grim-faced after failing to trouble the scoreboard. The same scoreless fate befell them in a pre-World Cup friendly against England last autumn, but this match in Cardiff had far more riding on it.
Italy’s set-piece work was impressive, particularly the scrum, and there was a fine debut from lock Niccolo Cannone, but new Azzurri head coach Franco Smith has much to pick over in his review. It extends Italy’s record losing run in the championship to 23 games.
The match was effectively won by half-time after Adams’s double built on three early penalties by Dan Biggar, who conjured a sublime moment of skill for the second try.
Wales were already 14-0 to the good when the Northampton fly-half bamboozled Italy’s defence with a through-the-legs pass for Adams to dive over in the corner.
Take a look at the try here…
Adams had crossed for his first try on 17 minutes after Italy’s defence was caught too narrow and Leigh Halfpenny delivered a perfect pass into the path of Adams, who scored in the corner. Watch his opening effort here…
Wales had taken control from the off, knitting together 15 phases in the opening minutes.
Biggar, given the kicking duties ahead of Halfpenny, twice punished the visitors after Alessandro Zanni and Tommaso Allan failed to roll away at the breakdown. And he obliged again to make it 9-0 after Andrea Lovotti tripped Halfpenny as he chased his midfield chip.
Italy regularly got the ball in Matteo Minozzi’s hands but they made little headway against the thick red wall. They also fell foul of referee Luke Pearce; by the time they won their first penalty, from a 22nd-minute scrum, Wales had already chalked up six penalties. The penalty count evened up by the finish but the damage had been done.
Johnny McNicholl, winning his first cap on the right wing, was forced off for an early head injury assessment (HIA) after sustaining a bloody nose from Alun Wyn Jones’s stray shin at a ruck. That introduced Tompkins to the fray for his first cap and he won a significant turnover penalty in the ten minutes before McNicholl returned.
Wales led 21-0 at the break, Biggar converting the second Adams try from the touchline. But it might have been more because the lively Tomos Williams just failed to gather the ball after charging down an attempted clearance by Allan, while the scrum-half was denied a score on another occasion because of a Halfpenny knock-on in the build-up.
Italy enjoyed a bit more possession in the third quarter but eventually Tompkins restored the natural order with a jinking finish and soon after he put in North for a try that was disallowed on TMO review because of a knock-on.
It seemed as if Wales might not register a bonus point but North crashed over from close quarters with four minutes remaining before Adams applied the finishing touch with the clock in the red. Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric, who topped the tackle count with 21, was awarded Man of the Match by the BBC’s Jonathan Davies, a decision he jokingly tried to change after Adams had got his hat-trick.
“It’s a great team performance,” said Tipuric. “It’s nice to start the campaign with a bonus-point win and it makes it special to have a zero on the board, too. It’s a great start.
“I think we can keep getting better and better. It’s just a snapshot of what we can do today. Hopefully we can improve as the tournament goes on. The strength in depth in the back row in Wales is crazy really, whoever takes the field has to put a shift in.”
Pivac called it a “far from perfect” performance, highlighting the passivity of Wales’ defence and the breakdown as work-ons. Such is the coach’s prerogative, but 42-0 is a pretty strong statement first up by the holders.
He had praise for Adams, whose hat-trick was the first by a Welshman on home soil in the championship since Maurice Richards’s fireworks in 1969.
“On the biggest stage in world rugby (RWC 2019) he was the top try-scorer so he has got to be right up there,” said Pivac. “What I liked was his last try; he could have easily just parked up on his wing but he came close to the ruck and scored late on.
“With Stephen Jones running our attack and the way we want to play the game, wingers get more opportunity potentially. So I think he will enjoy the way we play.”
Scrum-half Gareth Davies, hooker Elliot Dee and centre Owen Watkin should be fit to face Ireland next Saturday in Dublin, while full-back Liam Williams remains a doubt.
WALES: Leigh Halfpenny; Johnny McNicholl (Nick Tompkins 11-22), George North, Hadleigh Parkes (Nick Tompkins 53), Josh Adams; Dan Biggar (Jarrod Evans 69), Tomos Williams (Rhys Webb 61); Wyn Jones (Rob Evans 56), Ken Owens (Ryan Elias 64), Dillon Lewis (Leon Brown 61), Jake Ball (Cory Hill 56), Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau (Ross Moriarty 53).
Tries (5): Adams 17, 18, 80, Tompkins 59, North 76.
Cons: Biggar 2, Halfpenny 2. Pens: Biggar 3.
ITALY: Matteo Minozzi; Leonardo Sarto (Jayden Hayward 56), Luca Morisi, Carlo Canna, Mattia Bellini; Tommaso Allan, Callum Braley (Guglielmo Palazzani 56); Andrea Lovotti (Danilo Fischetti 47), Luca Bigi (capt, Federico Zani 69), Giosué Zilocchi (Marco Riccioni 47), Alessandro Zanni (Marco Lazzaroni 47), Niccolò Cannone (Dean Budd 71), Jake Polledri, Sebastian Negri (Giovanni Licata 56), Abraham Steyn.
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