Six Nations 2008
Match report: Wales power past Italy in Cardiff
Scrum.com
February 23, 2008
Date/Time: Feb 23, 2008, 15:00 local, 15:00 GMT
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Wales 47 - 8 Italy
Attendance: 74305  Half-time: 13 - 8
Tries: Byrne 2, Shanklin, SM Williams 2
Cons: Hook 2, SM Jones 3
Pens: SM Jones 4
Tries: Castrogiovanni
Pens: Marcato
Lee Byrne finishes off a backs move in the corner with a diving score, Wales v Italy, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, February 23 2008.
Lee Byrne dives in to score in the corner
© Getty Images
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Wales stayed on course for the Six Nations Championship Grand Slam with a 47-8 thumping of Italy in their clash at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Tom Shanklin marked his 50th Test appearance with the try that sparked an emphatic second-half performance as Wales kept their campaign on track.

Shanklin popped up just a minute after the restart to snatch an interception and sprint 40 metres to score under the posts and deliver a body blow from which the Azzurri never recovered. Wales went on to score 34 unanswered points as Italy, who had tackled themselves to a standstill, crumbled under some relentless attacking rugby.

Full-back Lee Byrne, arguably the most improved player under Warren Gatland's regime, scored a try in each half and was named man of the match. Shane Williams scored his 38th and 39th Test tries to move within one of Gareth Thomas' Wales record while fly-half Stephen Jones supplemented it all with 18 points from a faultless kicking display.

Victory was Wales' first over Italy since the 2005 Grand Slam campaign and will strengthen the belief that another is on the cards. Wales head to Ireland in a fortnight's time and finish the campaign at home to France.

It is a tough finish to the campaign but Wales' second-half performance would have been too strong for virtually any side in world rugby. The tone was set by Shanklin's try which came at a vital point for Wales, who had ended the first half on the back foot as Italy pulled to within five points at 13-8. And it could have been worse had Ginzalo Canale not squandered a golden chance.

Italy full-back Andrea Marcato also saw his first two kicks rattle off the left post, the first of which was a conversion attempt from Martin Castrogiovanni's try. Stephen Jones had opened the scoring with two penalties for Wales after a feisty opening from the Azzurri. Jones had to dust himself down to slot the first penalty, conceded at the breakdown by Dellape, after collecting a knee in the head from Italian lock Carlo Del Fava. The citing officer will no doubt study the incident.

Byrne then spotted Marcato out of position, drilled a huge kick downfield and chased it down to put a huge tackle in on Italian captain Sergio Parisse. Italy forced the turnover but Andrea Masi attempted a crazy chip inside his own 22 and when Gavin Henson gathered it the makeshift Azzurri fly-half dived over the top and conceded the penalty, which Jones gratefully accepted.

Then it was Wales' turn to gift points away. Matthew Rees had already lost one lineout when, just five metres from his own line, the hooker missed jumper Ian Gough and Castrogiovanni powered over for the try. As they did against Scotland Wales had all the possession - after 19 minutes Italy had made 40 tackles to Wales' eight - but they could not capitalise on it.

Italy may be renowned for their forward prowess, but as the half wore on they attacked with pace and caused real problems to the Welsh defence. Winger Ezio Galon sliced through with a great angled run into the Welsh 22 and Gonzalo Canale only had to hold onto the pass to score. But he dropped it.

It was a golden chance for the Azzurri and high up in the stands, Mallett slammed his fist into a door-frame in frustration. The Welsh scrum may have been under pressure and their lineout was malfunctioning - but they were bossing the possession stats and finally managed to make it pay.

Shane Williams beat one made and then offloaded to Rees, who charged through one tackle but was stopped short of the line. When Italy were penalised for offside, Williams took the quick tap and the ball was spread wide from Henson to Byrne who scored in the corner.

When Italy had possession they were keen to run at Wales and after Marcato cut through Byrne did well to halt Mirco Bergamasco at pace. Italy kept the pressure on and were the better side in the closing stages of the half and Marcato's first successful kick brought them back within touching distance.

But Shanklin then pounced on Masi's long pass and it was all over. Mike Phillips came on for Dwayne Peel and made an immediate impact with a surging break - but wasted the opportunity by trying to score himself when Mark Jones was hollering for the pass.

Jones landed two more penalties and Italy had Mirco Bergamasco sin-binned after referee Dave Pearson lost patience with Italy's constant infringing. Wales then turned on the style and notched up 10 points while Bergamasco was cooling off.

Stephen Jones burst into a gap and delivered a perfectly-delayed pass for Shane Williams to scamper down the right touchline and score his 38th Test try for Wales. Byrne escaped Canale's tackle and scored from inside his own half to mark an eye-catching performance before Williams rounded off the win with a dazzling solo try.

Wales (13) 47
Tries: Byrne (2), Shanklin, S Williams (2)
Con: S Jones (3), Hook (2)
Pen: S Jones (4)

Italy (8) 8
Try: Castrogiovanni
Pen: Marcato

Wales: L Byrne (Ospreys); M Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), G Henson (Ospreys), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), D Peel (Llanelli Scarlets); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), M Rees (Llanelli Scarlets), R Thomas (Newport Gwent Dragons), I Gough (Ospreys), I Evans (Ospreys), J Thomas (Ospreys), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys, capt).

Replacements: H Bennett (Ospreys), Duncan Jones (Ospreys), Deiniol Jones (Cardiff Blues), G Delve (Gloucester), M Phillips (Ospreys), J Hook (Ospreys), S Parker (Ospreys).

Italy: Marcato (Treviso); A Sgarbi (Treviso), G Canale (Clermont-Auvergne), Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Francais), E Galon (Overmach Parma); A Masi (Biarritz), S Picone (Treviso); S Perugini (Toulouse), L Ghiraldini (Calvisano), M Castrogiovanni (Leicester), S Dellape' (Biarritz), CA del Fava (Ulster), J Sole (Viadana), Mauro Bergamasco (Stade Francais), S Parisse (Stade Francais).

Replacements: C Festuccia (Racing-Metro), A lo Cicero (Racing-Metro), M Bortolami (Gloucester), A Zanni (Calvisano), Pietro Travagli (Overmarch Parma), P Buso (Calvisano), E Patrizio (Petrarca Padova).

Attendance: 74,305

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