Sunday, March 15, 2009
Wales survived a monumental scare at Stadio Flaminio but their hopes of a successful RBS 6 Nations title defence look bleak following a 20-15 win over Italy.
Wing Shane Williams scored his 46th Test try and substitute Tom Shanklin touched down eight minutes from time, while fly-half James Hook added 10 points from the boot to thwart an Italian side after full-back Andrea Marcato kicked five penalties.
Six Nations strugglers Italy, without a win in the tournament this season, led 15-13 entering the closing stages before Shanklin's vital score.
Wales, though, will need to record an emphatic victory over Grand Slam-chasing Ireland in Cardiff next Saturday - possibly by 20 points - to retain Six Nations silverware.
Italy, who went toe to toe courtesy of a wonderfully-committed effort by their pack, arguably deserved at least a share of the spoils.
Wales, captained for the first time by lock Alun-Wyn Jones, had expected a fierce onslaught during the opening 20 minutes, and while that duly materialised, Italy then refused to follow the script by wilting.
Williams' try saw him equal Gareth Thomas' Welsh record of eight against Italy, while he is now only one behind Gareth Edwards' Welsh-best of 18 in Five or Six Nations rugby.
But Welsh highlights proved few and far between during a performance that was comfortably their worst in the Six Nations since Warren Gatland took charge 15 months ago.
Credit: press association