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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wales still on course for Grand Slam following victory over Italy

Wales are still on track for a Six Nations title following a comfortable 24-3 win over determined Italy at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday. If they beat France next weekend, they will pick up their third Grand Slam in eight years.

It was a slow first half as Italy frustrated the hosts, who went into the break at just six points up at 9-3, following penalties exchanged by Leigh Halfpenny and Mirco Bergamasco.

Two tries followed in the second period, one by Jamie Roberts as he split the defence to run 50 meters untouched, and the other a later effort from winger, and Man of the Match, Alex Cuthbert.

Halfpenny was yellow carded for taking out Sergio Parisse in the air, although it looked as though it may have been a harsh call. Welsh coach Warren Gatland felt that his side didn't get the rub of the green throughout, criticising referee George Clancy's handling of the breakdown.

"I thought there was a lot of intent by us but it was a bit frustrating because the flow of the game was not there. We were not allowed to get quick ball and the breakdown was a bit of a mess. We will take the win but if a team has that much possession and territory and loses the penalty count 13-12 you have got to be frustrated about that.

"We weren’t allowed to get the momentum going. It’s probably just about trying to get the message through to referees, let’s be positive to the team that is trying to play positively and let’s reward them for that. I don’t think everything has to be 100 per cent to the letter of the law because there is so much interpretation.

"That’s why I am personally pretty frustrated because it was difficult for us," Gatland added.

Italy coach Jaques Brunel, who took over from Nick Mallett, was positive despite the loss. He was pleased with his team's defensive effort against a 'very powerful Welsh side'.

Posted at 1:15 pm | 23 comments

Viewing 23 comments

Pretzel March 11, 2012 7:26 pm

An inevitable result really. I felt bad for Italy, I thought the scoreline didn't reflect on how Italy played, but the reality is they were out classed...

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Reality March 11, 2012 8:02 pm

A predictable result really. Italy are just so poor in the backline that it's sad to watch. I remember that in the Mallet days they had some good set-piece moves to make up for their lack of creativity, but they seem to have disappeared altogether, leaving little more than a brave defence.

Did anyone else think Italy were hard done by for Wales's first try though? The referee clearly got in the way of the scrumhalf who then lost the ball as a result, and from the turnover Roberts scored a try. I mean it was only a matter of time before Wales scored and put the game to bed I think, but I think Italy got a raw deal there.

Also, Parisse's tackle on Halfpenny got me thinking: is Parisse not the most underrated player in the world, and is Halfpenny not very overrated? I mean Parisse is just such a terrific player, yet no one ever mentions his name when speaking about the world's best number 8. I think if he was from New Zealand he would have been canonised already. But then Halfpenny, everyone goes mad about him, but I just don't see it. He's reasonably fast, but that's about it. I don't understand how he's such an amazing player. Not strong, no side-step, a decent kicker out of hand but nothing more.

Finally, does anyone else think that Wales as a whole are a bit overrated? I mean Italy picked a big, strong-tackling backline and suddenly Wales were like headless chickens. It was like when Joe Worsley was picked a few years ago to counter Roberts and then Wales couldn't do anything right. I think that they're a bit like South Africa, that is, big and strong but a bit lacking in creativity.

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Pretzel March 11, 2012 9:28 pm

I think people go on about Halfpenny because he is so young (not the youngest I know) but I think it is one of those "I always rated him when he first started playing" type of things that people might end up talking about in the next few years. I think he is a good player, he has a decent boot on him and he is a good goal kicker (isn't he?).

As for Parisse, I agree he is underrated, I always have... I wasn't sure if he milked that run in with Halfpenny though... I can see why it COULD have hurt, but I dunno, initially when I saw it I thought he had milked it a little.

As for Wales as a whole.. I don't really know what to make of them. They were a little non existent before the World cup, then they played very well, got to the semi-finals where I think most people thought they would probably have got to the finals if Warburton had not been sent off... or should I say if Warburton had not tackled like he did!.. Would they have won the world cup? I mean, France were 2 points away from a win, and I thought Wales were better than France in the semi finals...

I think maybe the reason people feel like Wales is overrated is because they have no trophies to back up their strong streak.. (I know they have the triple crown now..) So it's almost like we can all see a Wales which VERY NEARLY got to the World cup finals, and perhaps if NZ had played the same then Wales MIGHT have won it, therefore people argue Wales NEARLY won the world cup... Then I suppose the age and the lack of experience in the Welsh team as a whole (apart from a few), and you think how "almost" successful they were/have been.

I think they are a good team, but just lack the goods in the trophy cabinet for people to believe that they are a good team.

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stroudos March 11, 2012 11:11 pm

Parisse gets loads if plaudits. Always mentioned as one of, if not THE best, No8s in the world. Only just missed out on IRB world player of the year award because it was up against Dan Carter at his peak. Anyway the bastard's married to a Miss France so he gets no sympathy from me! Awesome player, but I don't agree he's underrated, gets loads of recognition and deservedly so.

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Reality March 11, 2012 11:40 pm

Ahah, envy is a terrible thing. I just think though that people say he's great for Italy, but they don't say he's great full stop. Maybe I listen to the wrong people but whenever I hear about the world's best number 8s, it's always Read, Heaslip, Spies and sometimes Harinordoquy. Parisse usually gets plaudits as a great ITALIAN player, but left out when people talk about the truly great world number 8s. But I'm glad you don't share that view.

And I don't know Pretzel. Wales were nothing before the WC, then they lost to South Africa, beat a poor Ireland convincingly, then lost to a very, very poor French team, and were then beaten quite well twice by Australia. Since then they've scraped past Ireland by the skin of their teeth with the help of the referee, done the same with England, and beaten Scotland and Italy (in quite unconvincing fashion). I think they're being over-hyped.

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Pretzel March 12, 2012 1:09 am

Yeh you could be right reality, I know they were beaten a lot in the WC... But then it almost makes you wonder if the general standard of play in the WC was below normal, because Wales were so close to the finals, and then if you look at the finals and perhaps took how NZ played and put them against Wales, I think Wales may have clinched a victory, or it would have been a similar score.

I know this is all assumptions and has no real basis, but if you think Wales were 14 men and NEARLY (1 point) beat a poor French team but appeared to be playing the better rugby, then it does make you wonder how far they could have gone if Warburton was still playing. (I know we have done all that to the death...) But what we WOULD expect is one sided contest with NZ, but then maybe with the nerves and the pressure NZ under performed.

It sounds bad but I can't really remember the final any more, it was so long ago and I had nothing riding on it.

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E-Spy March 12, 2012 3:53 pm

Anyone who follows NH rugby knows that Parisse would walk into any NH select XV, and possibly a world XV. Not under-rated at all.
As for the earlier comments about Halfpenny; he is solid under the high ball, riding the pressure and tackles that come with that with aplomb (many examples in this years 6N already), committed in defence, and a solid place-kicker. It is between him and Kearney for the FB Lions jersey next year IMHO.
And Wales being over-rated? Who over-rates them? The press maybe? They are a young team and the only one in a position to win the (notoriously difficult - ask England!) Grand Slam. They also only managed 4th in the 6N last year. The hype is probably more due to a improbable rise in their fortunes over the last 12 months.

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WelshOsprey March 11, 2012 9:31 pm

Italy are garbage, never even threatened wales once in the match. They are not improving they're still the six nations whipping boys after all these years.
Bergamasco is a complete tool.. constantly trying to start fights and a very average player.

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stroudos March 11, 2012 11:02 pm

Wonderful to see you're so magnanimous. Are you one of these Welsh people that go around calling the English arrogant?

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WelshOsprey March 13, 2012 1:19 am

Everything I said was true. And the english are cunts.... mostly

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stroudos March 13, 2012 10:20 am

I wish you'd stop being so diplomatic and just tell us how you really feel.

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Pretzel March 13, 2012 3:09 pm

lol... Maybe this is a bit of the "boosted ego syndrome" that comes along when you win a world cup, we saw it when England won the world cup in 2003, when the Boks won the World cup in 2007, and when Wales won it in....ah...

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Blew1 March 12, 2012 1:41 pm

Wales will take the win, but a very average performance on the whole. Will need to improve to beat a disillusioned French side though, who cannot play any worse than they did yesterday against England. The French seemed lost to me - very poor game plan, but they rarely make that kind of mistake twice and will have a point to prove Saturday as will Wales.

George Clancy ruined the game for me, he was as consistent as he was constantly nit-picking and very fussy at the breakdown in my opinion and pretty ruined the game for both teams and spectators.

Also, IRB - PLEASE SORT THE SCRUM OUT!!! It was a shambles in all three games and took way too much time!

Reality - Which World Cup were you watching? Wales were the form team of the World Cup and had it not been for THAT Red Card and the injury to Adam Jones, Wales could have the been World Champions againt a depleted and (at times) quite borderline All Blacks team which were not at the top of their game apart from that win against Australia.

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Reality March 12, 2012 5:42 pm

I was watching the World Cup where Wales lost to a poor South African team, and then lost, 14 players notwithstanding, to an abysmal French team, and then lost to Australia. And yeah, maybe they would have beaten NZ, but the fact that they lost to France and SA and then Australia tells me that they absolutely would not have beaten NZ. That's what I mean by overrated. One good victory against Ireland and suddenly they're the best team in world rugby.

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Pretzel March 12, 2012 10:52 pm

I reckon had the welsh played against THAT NZ team and the style and attitude that it had when it played France, then I reckon they would have beaten them. THAT is the reason I mentioned above that perhaps the general standard of rugby was lacking in the last WC, or at least in the final...

But of course if NZ had gone into that game facing Wales we may have seen a completely different game and have seen the REAL NZ game, rather than a half choked, huge nerves sort of game...

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roj888 March 14, 2012 6:59 pm

you clearly have no clue.....

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kadova March 18, 2012 12:13 am

I don't believe Wales would have beaten the All Blacks in the finale. Don't forget the defense thet ABs put on that day for instance. And it was Eden Park, so count the AB crowd as the 16th player.
And in the semi-finale, the red card didn't give any help to the French. The players said it aftwerwards, the red card made them freeze to death because they were scared to loose the match against 14 men and feel humiliated.
Anyway, we will never know as we cannot redo the past.
And about this 6 Nations, the French have both a mental problem, and a physical problem. It takes them a good 20 min to get into each match, we don't know why, and they're not getting on well with the new game plans yet.
And they're out of the form needed for international matches, because they're prepared by the clubs who need them to be at their peak in april-may for the finales phases of the Top 14 and H cup. For instance, players had cramps at the end of their frist match (agaisnt Italy). Add to that all the teams are faster thanks to the RWC and its preparation.

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BarryT March 12, 2012 10:42 pm

I'm gettin a little concerned at Warran Gatland regularly having a go at referee's, does anyone else think he has a point or is it very clever psychological tactics to make ref's think twice about penalising wales? I don't know, i would personally love to see nigel owens ref-ing a welsh game but obviously that can never happen. No other countries managers (that i'm aware of) criticise the ref's after matches so openly, what does everyone think?

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roj888 March 14, 2012 7:01 pm

he had a point in this game! I was screaming at the ref through the game just to let the game flow, even with Italy on the attack. When your going to be so whistle happy in the tackle area, your going to turn teams into a game of kicking tennis, which is no fun to watch

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Nate March 13, 2012 11:34 pm

Parisse is great and gets loads of plaudits, more than any other #8 out there! He may even be overrated because he is the only good bloke in an Italian jersey and doesn't even have to fight for his place.

Halfpenny is in form right now, like Tommy Bowe. His kicking is great, he's fast, very strong (who says he isn't is crazy! just cause he is small doesn't mean he is a weakling, he's the most muscular rugby player out there, look at google images! while muscles don't equal strength just look at him play to see it!) he has a sidestep (seriously some of these comments are mind-boggling) but he isn't Shane Williams, a different player in many ways.

Wales will have had three grand slams in eights years if they beat france, what more trophies can they get? and when they've finished fourth they have always been ranked as such due to points difference between 2nd and 4th, so they've effectively either tied for second or gotten a grand slam these last few years.

I do think they are overrated tho, even tho I don't think we've seen their best yet! I think the media have pumped them up as England have gotten worse, but now England are on the rise again (and actually playing exciting rugby, is that a first?) i'm sure the headlines will revert to what they looked like before.

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Funkyrooster March 14, 2012 11:53 am

If Italy are garbage, then Wales have to account for only putting two tries past them when playing at home in perfect conditions. And if Italy had a fly half worth the name, they'd see a massive improvement. If Wales had Roberts at 10 how good do you think they'd be?

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Yorffeo March 15, 2012 2:36 pm

Why is Gatland going after the referee?
I have not seen the game, but this is not soccer. Go on...

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