Sloppy Wales edge Italy
Rome - Italy dominated large swathes of the game but couldn't turn possession and territory into points as Wales sneaked away with a 24-16 win at the Stadio Flaminio on Saturday.
The sides shared two tries apiece and also had one each disallowed in a thrilling game in the Roman sunshine.
Wales proved more clinical than their hosts, though, with James Hook's late drop goal ensuring Italy's second half fightback stalled just when it appeared to be gathering pace.
But the Azzurri also paid for a woeful kicking performance, primarily from Mirco Bergamasco.
The game started at break-neck pace with Italy penalised for failing to release the man on the floor and Stephen Jones stuck over the penalty on three minutes.
The hosts hit straight back as a wayward Bradley Davies pass just outside the Wales 22 was picked up by Gonzalo Canale who then kicked on and shrugged off a tug from Davies to touch down.
Bergamasco missed the conversion and on seven minutes Wales also went over the try-line as Hook broke the Italian defensive line, fed the ball outside to Lee Byrne, who cut inside and popped the ball back out to Morgan Stoddart to spin his way over.
Jones missed the conversion and then Bergamasco levelled the scores on 12 minutes after Stoddart was pealised for holding on.
But from the kick-off Italy gave the ball away too easily with a poor up and under and Shane Williams ran across the pitch before off-loading to Byrne to burst through a tackle and pop the ball inside to Hook, who sent Sam Warburton in under the posts.
Italy looked to have scored their second try on 26 minutes as Alessandro Zanni dived over a ruck and appeared to touch down but Stoddart managed to get his arm under the ball to save the day for Wales.
Bergamasco kicked a penalty to bring Italy back to an 11-15 deficit.
Williams put Byrne over but that too was disallowed for a forward pass before Jones struck two more penalties to give Wales a 21-11 half-time lead.
Bergamasco missed an easy early penalty after the break but on 50 minutes Italy punished dropped Wales ball between Williams and Jones as Alberto Sgarbi kicked on and although Williams recovered, Italy turned over the ball and got captain Sergio Parisse one-on-one against Jones to burrow over in the corner.
With Bergamasco's erratic kicking performance, Italy opted to kick a penalty into touch but having won a penalty at their line-out, they decided to scrum down and gave away a penalty to relieve the pressure.
From a similar position they opted to go for goal this time with substitute fly-half Luciano Orquera taking over kicking duties but he too missed.
Italy had dominated both territorially and possession since the break but when Wales finally got down into the hosts' 22 on 73 minutes, Hook kicked a drop-goal to push the visitors two scores clear.
Ityaly looked set to score a third try with a brilliant break from good line-out ball but Bergamasco dropped the ball when trying to offload in the tackle.
Christmas can come early and this year the Bulls decided to bring it to us not even halfway into a...