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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 March, 2004, 15:43 GMT
Wales 44-10 Italy
Gareth Thomas helps Rhys Williams celebrate Wales' second try
Wales (16) 44
Tries: S Williams (2), R Williams (2), Thomas, Shanklin
Cons: Jones (4)
Pens: Jones (2)
Italy (0) 10
Tries: A Masi
Con: Wakarua
Pen: De Marigny
Att: 72,500
Wales ended coach Steve Hansen's reign on a high with a crushing six-try win over Italy at the Millennium Stadium.

Wings Rhys and Shane Williams claimed braces in a free-flowing performance from the exciting Wales back line.

But the highlight of the afternoon was Gareth Thomas' second-half score, the full-back breaking Ieuan Evans' Wales record of 33 international tries.

Italy got a 62nd-minute Andrea Masi try but never looked like recording their first ever Six Nations away win.

The largest ever crowd for a Wales v Italy game turned out, witnessing both Hansen's final match before returning to New Zealand and lock Gareth Llewellyn equalling Neil Jenkins' record of 87 Wales caps.

The home side sought to play an expansive game from the start, but had to make do with two Stephen Jones penalties in the opening quarter.

It doesn't get much better than that
Wales coach Steve Hansen
Iestyn Harris had been searching for the killer ball in midfield, and in the 24th minute it finally came off as he freed Rhys Williams on half-way.

He was hauled down metres short but the ball was quickly recycled, Harris fired it out to Shane Williams and, spurning a huge overlap, the wing was able to wriggle through three defenders for the opening try.

With Colin Charvis leading a forceful Welsh pack and the Azzurri kicking loosely to their dangerous back three, the home side hammered straight back into the opposition half.

Colin Charvis gets to grips with Paul Griffen
Wales' captain Colin Charvis had a forceful game
Gareth Cooper sniped from an attacking scrum and fed Thomas, who put Rhys Williams in at the corner past covering number eight Andrea de Rossi.

Mark Taylor should have got the third try soon after following a Michael Owen break, but as the centre stretched for the line a fine covering tackle from Gonzalo Canale knocked the ball from his hands.

It was one of a number of missed chances as Wales' scrum and line-out continued to creak, but the Cardiff crowd were happy with a 16-0 half-time lead.

That was our worst performance in the Six Nations
Italy coach John Kirwan
The home side started the second period as though the game was already won, proceeding to give away a string of soft penalties.

Italian fly-half Roland de Marigny could only convert one of three shots at goal, and Wales' slump was ended by Thomas' historic try.

Scrappy recycled ball came to the full-back in the Italian 22, but Thomas went for a half-gap and used his pace and power to claim his 34th international try.

Steve Hansen sent Tom Shanklin on for Harris, and with his first touch the big centre powered through a tiring Azzurri defence for the fourth try.

Italy fought back gamely, Christian Stoica and Andrea Masi linking well in midfield, and Masi showing the strength to get through three defenders for a much-needed score.

Shane Williams had the gas to add his second for Wales, though, before Rhys Williams scored perhaps the try of the match.

A flowing move involving forwards and backs was crowned as Michael Owen threw an overhead pass out to Duncan Jones, the prop sending Williams in at the corner.

Wales: Thomas (Warriors), Williams (Blues), Taylor (Scarlets), Harris (Blues), Williams (Ospreys), Jones (Scarlets), Cooper (Warriors), Jones (Ospreys), McBryde (Scarlets), Jenkins (Warriors), Llewellyn (Ospreys), Owen (Dragons), Charvis (Tarbes, capt), Williams (Blues), Jones (Scarlets).

Replacements: Davies (Warriors), Evans (Blues), Sidoli (Warriors,), Popham (Leeds Tykes), Peel (Scarlets), Sweeney (Warriors), Shanklin (Blues).

Italy: Canale (Benetton Treviso), Mazzucato (Ghial Calvisano), Masi (Viadana), Stoica (Montpellier), Dallan (Benetton Treviso), De Marigny (Overmach Rugby Parma), Griffen (Ghial Calvisano), Lo Cicero (Lazio & Primavera), Ongaro (Benetton Treviso), Castrogiovanni (Ghial Calvisano), Dellape (Benetton Treviso), Del Fava (Overmach Parma), Bortolami (Safio Petrarca Padova), Persico (Leeds Tykes), De Rossi (Ghial Calvisano, capt).

Replacements: Festuccia (SKG Gran Parma), Perugini (Ghial Calvisano), Mandelli (Ghial Calvisano), Orlando (Treviso), Picone (Benetton Treviso), Wakarua (Brescia), Bergamasco (Stade Francais).

Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa).

Wales coach Steve Hansen
"It doesn't get much better than that"



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