Edoardo Padavani's last-gasp try gives Italy their first-ever win in Wales and ends their 36-match losing run in the Six Nations. An inquest into Wales' defeat is sure to follow
Italy stun Wales 22-21 to end their losing run
Italy stunned Wales to end their record losing run in the Six Nations. A last-minute try by Edoardo Padavani, converted by Paolo Garbisi, brought the championship’s perennial whipping boys their first win after 36 successive defeats since 2015.
“Today we let ourselves down,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac after one of the biggest shocks in championship history. “That is simply not good enough,” said captain Dan Biggar, admitting that the post-match exchange with the BBC’s touchline reporter was the hardest interview he’d ever had to do.
It’s several years since Italy even picked up a bonus point and an average of 40 points conceded this year points at the expectations surrounding them. Along with so many, this reporter holds his hand up – there seemed no way they could come to Cardiff and beat a Wales team that gave France an almighty fright just a week or so ago.
Yet the visitors were the better side for long periods and in young Grenoble full-back Ange Capuozzo they have a potential star of the future – if he isn’t already. “Hopefully he can be a poster boy for Italy and they can build on this momentum,” said former Wales captain Sam Warburton of the player that Toulouse recently snapped up.
It was Capuozzo’s electrifying run from deep with the clock near to red that created Padovani’s try and sent Italian fans into a frenzy. Watch it here.
Garbisi still had to knock over the conversion but Padovani had got round to the posts and the fly-half was never going to miss. It brought Italy their first-ever win in Wales following a draw in Cardiff in 2006. More important, it will send belief surging through the ranks of a new generation of Azzurri players.
To Capuozzo’s sparkling feet you can add the dogged valour of captain Michele Lamaro and the jackling toughness of loosehead Danilo Fischetti. Out wide, wing Monty Ioane has been a thorn in every defence he faces.
It had still amounted to zero points so far under new coach Kieran Crowley – until this match. And what a match it was, despite an unpromising start.
The conditions were perfect for running rugby but little of note happened in the opening quarter. Wales were guilty of trying to move the ball without making any initial inroads through the forwards – not ‘earning the right’ as the cliché goes.
They conceded several penalties at the breakdown, where Italy front-rows Fischetti and Giocomo Nicotera were strong over the ball.
Having fallen 6-0 behind to penalties by Garbisi and Padavini, the home side decided to spurn easy kicks at goal in search of a try. Dewi Lake butchered one opportunity from a 5m tap when he failed to kick the ball before charging at the line, while Capuozzo made a crucial tap tackle to deny Louis Rees-Zammit.
The crowd was finally roused after Wales attacked from a knock-on advantage in their 22 and the move was completed at the other end when centre Owen Watkin was put through a space between two tight-five forwards. It was his second try for his country.
Biggar converted for 7-6 but the stadium was soon silenced because within six minutes Garbisi and Padovani had each knocked over another goal – Padovani taking the longer-range efforts – to establish a 12-7 lead.
It might even have been worse had Seb Davies not scragged Ioane after the wing bust the Welsh line and a loose ball from a cross-kick not been touched down by Watkin.
Wales looked strangely flat, lacking the passion and intensity that had burnished their near victory over the table-topping French.
They went to the bench early, Leon Brown, Nick Tompkins and Ross Moriarty all entering the fray before ten minutes had elapsed in the second half. Only a brilliant try-saving tackle by Josh Adams at the corner flag prevented the hugely dangerous Ioane scoring from a thrilling kick and gather. Watch that below.
Lake went over from a lineout drive, Biggar’s conversion putting Wales in front. But the Azzurri refused to go away. Under pressure behind his own line, Capuozzo wriggled free and fed Ioane, who thundered up the touchline.
Taulupe Faletau got back to field a kick ahead but the remarkable Fischetti was on to him in a flash to force a turnover penalty that Garbisi kicked for the lead, 15-14.
A sensation loomed. Wales seemed clueless as to how to turn the momentum. Alun Wyn Jones took his leave and Padovani sent a 52m goal attempt well wide.
With just 12 minutes remaining, Wales finally executed a decisive forward carry as Moriarty went up the middle and offloaded to replacement Wyn Jones. The ball was recycled and when it reached Adams on the left flank, the wing danced back infield and straightened to score. He had scored a hat-trick in the fixture two years ago. Biggar converted, 21-15.
Wyn Jones might have put the game to bed from a close-range thrust but the try was disallowed on review as it was deemed that an Italian had got an arm underneath the ball.
It mattered not – or so we thought. At that stage Wales had recovered their poise and a try looked beyond the visitors. With a few minutes remaining, Jonathan Davies in the commentary box awarded Adams the Man of the Match plaudits for his try-saving tackle and then the score that had broken Italian hearts.
Then Capuozzo came up with a moment of magic good enough to win any game. And what had been a curious 80 minutes to watch – at times frustrating, at other times compelling – will now go down as one of the championship’s greatest matches.
“It’s just unreal,” said Italy captain Lamaro, whose 86 tackles across the tournament was by far the highest figure.
“I want to stay with my family and team-mates and celebrate with them because we deserve it and we worked so hard to get here. The last seven years have been very long. But this is the first step of our long process that we just started.”
His head coach Crowley said: “I’m just really proud, there was a bit of adversity and sickness in the camp this week. They dug in and kept playing, believing, defence was outstanding and they stuck at it.
“There was a lot of emotion. Marius Goosen, our defence coach, has been here six years and just won his first Six Nations game, you’d think we’d won the World Cup! We had some measures to measure ourselves by, not the results, and this gives us a base going forward.”
WALES: Johnny McNicholl (Callum Sheedy 60); Louis Rees-Zammit, Owen Watkin, Uilisi Halaholo (Nick Tompkins 47), Josh Adams; Dan Biggar (capt), Gareth Davies (Kieran Hardy 67); Gareth Thomas (Wyn Jones 60), Dewi Lake (Bradley Roberts 76), Dillon Lewis (Leon Brown ht), Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (Will Rowlands 60), Seb Davies (Ross Moriarty 50), Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau.
ITALY: Ange Capuozzo; Edoardo Padavani, Ignacio Brex, Leonardo Marin (Marco Zanon 53), Montanna Ioane; Paolo Garbisi, Callum Braley (Alessandro Fusco 60); Danilo Fischetti (Cherif Traorè 70), Giocomo Nicotera (Luca Bigi 53), Pietro Ceccarelli (Filippo Alongi 53), Marco Fuser (Niccolò Cannone 48), Federico Ruzza, Giovanni Pettinelli (David Sisi 75), Michele Lamaro (capt), Toa Halafini (Braam Steyn 64).
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