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Saturday, 2 March, 2002, 13:55 GMT
Patchy Wales beat Italy
Wales 44-20 Italy
Wales recorded the first win of Steve Hansen's reign with a comfortable, but unconvincing, victory over Italy at the Millennium Stadium.
Hansen's side played well for 20 minutes of each half, but never gained the overall control they had threatened.
They needed a good start, and got it after just two minutes.
Following a big tackle by Tom Shanklin, his centre partner Andy Marinos made a break and fed wing Craig Morgan.
Morgan saw full-back Gert Peens out of position and kicked through to win the foot-race for his first international try. Stephen Jones converted.
But Wales still looked shaky, particularly at the line-out, and gave away a penalty which Rotherham's Ramiro Pez put over to make it 7-3.
The crowd, at around the 55,000 mark, was less than capacity - not the first time Italy have failed to sell out the Millennium Stadium, but still indicitive of the disillusionment felt by Welsh fans.
They were given something to cheer again in the 12th minute by the second home try.
There was a hint of a knock-on as Nathan Budgett made a break, but Dafydd James gathered the loose ball to scamper over. Jones again converted.
The home side declined one kick at goal, but after more pressure Jones made it 17-3 with a simple penalty.
But Italy's heads did not drop and they bounced back with a smart try from their most-capped player, Carlo Checchinato, converted off the post by Pez.
Wales lost Shanklin with a leg injury and replaced him with Cardiff's Rhys Williams, moving James to centre.
They soon restored their double-digit lead courtesy of a 40-metre penalty from Jones.
But the home side's line-out problems continued despite using scrum-half Rob Howley on defensive throws and, from another offence, Peens booted over a penalty from halfway.
Wales' early slickness evaporated before half-time amid a series of errors, but Jones did kick his third penalty to make it 23-13 at the break.
After surviving an early second-half scare, Wales produced a sparkling try when Craig Morgan and Jones set up replacement Rhys Williams for a side-stepping 40-metre burst to the line. Jones converted.
Former national coach Graham Henry, wearing a Wales scarf, was in the crowd, and when his face was shown on the big screen there was a huge cheer from the supporters.
That had hardly died down when skipper Scott Quinnell scored the fourth Welsh try after a penalty given away by Italy flanker Aaron Persico, who was yellow-carded.
With pressure off, Wales started to throw the ball around. Injections of pace from Kevin Morgan and Rhys Williams gave Marinos the chance to celebrate his first international try with a flamboyant dive.
Rugby league convert Iestyn Harris replaced Kevin Morgan at full-back with 20 minutes to play, with Brett Sinkinson coming on for Quinnell.
The changes, which also saw Dwayne Peel replace Howley, and Barry Williams take over from McBryde, affected Welsh fluency.
They hardly threatened the Italian line, and Harris looked out of sorts in another strange environment.
It was the visitors who finished the scoring though, when replacement Giovanni Ranieri made the most of Welsh uncertainty to touch down for Peens to convert.
Wales: K Morgan (Swansea); D James (Bridgend), T Shanklin (Saracens), A Marinos (Newport), C Morgan (Cardiff); S Jones (Llanelli), R Howley (Cardiff); I Thomas (Ebbw Vale), R McBryde (Llanelli), C Anthony (Newport), I Gough (Newport), A Moore (Swansea), N Budgett (Bridgend), M Williams (Cardiff), S Quinnell (Llanelli, capt).
Italy: G Peens (Piacenza); R Pedrazzi (Viadana), Marko Bergamasco (Padova), C Stoica (Castres/Fra), N Mazzucato (Treviso); R Pez (Rotherham), A Troncon (Montferrand); S Perugini (L'Aquila), A Moscardi (Treviso, capt), G De Carli (Calvisano), M Bortolami (Padova), M Giacheri (Sale), C Checchinato (Treviso), Mauro Bergamasco (Treviso), A Persico (Viadana).
Referee: Chris White (England)
02 Mar 02 | International
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