Drama high as last-minute try gives Italy first Six Nations victory in 36 attempts

A DRAMATIC last-minute try from winger Edoardo Padovani handed Italy a shock victory in Cardiff, their first Six Nations success in 36 attempts – and their first league point in four years.

A moment of brilliant dancing from Ange Capuozzo set Padovani up to score – and Paolo Garbisi converted in front of the posts to stun the Millennium Stadium crowd and spark tears of joy from the ecstatic Azzurri as they strode on collapsed into a collective heap.

It is only their 13th victory in the Six Nations and a third against Wales. Only against Scotland (7) did they win more.

Coach Kieran Crowley told the BBC: “I’m really proud. They were up the last 30 minutes but they continued to play, to believe it. I had tears in my eyes in the stands… it looked like we had won the World Cup but it’s so important, it’s a young group and they need moments like that. A match does not make a team, we must base ourselves on that when we meet in the summer and until November.

The result will put pressure on Welsh boss Wayne Pivac, whose side struggled to find early fluidity as Italy struck first with a 13th-minute Paolo Garbisi penalty.

He said: “The discipline wasn’t great in the first half, we conceded 12 points because of poor discipline… and then coming back in the game and throwing it away at the end, it’s hugely frustrating. “The Italians came here with more enthusiasm than us, which is hard to understand. We are very disappointed. We improved throughout the competition and today we let ourselves go.”

Italian Juan Ignacio Brex celebrates with Toa Halafihi after the game

Last season’s champions had hoped to give scoring men Dan Biggar and Alun Wyn Jones a day to remember.

Skipper Biggar became the seventh Welshman to collect 100 caps, while Jones recorded 150 appearances for Wales, making him the first player in international rugby union history to reach that figure.

But the script was torn apart by an Italian side claiming their first Six Nations victory in seven years, ending a run of 36 successive defeats in the competition.

Home fans had nothing to cheer about until Wales won a string of Italy 22 penalties. Wales eventually found space to release Rees-Zammit, but the flying wing was unable to recover McNicholl’s pass and the opportunity was lost.

The Italian defense was breached after 28 minutes when Wales gained momentum by winning a fastball.

Rees-Zammit made good ground down the right flank and possession was recycled smoothly for Owen Watkin to clear for his second Test down.

Biggar converted but Italy quickly responded with Garbisi’s second penalty and the visitors led 9-7.

Wales’ indiscipline hurt them and Padovani landed another long-range spot-kick to extend Italy’s lead to five points after 34 minutes.

ALMOST;  Italy's Monty Ioane is tackled for touch in the second half by Wales' Josh Adams at the Principality Stadium
ALMOST; Italy’s Monty Ioane is tackled for touch in the second half by Wales’ Josh Adams at the Principality Stadium

Italy finished the first period in the lead and their growing optimism led them to kick to touch and opt for a push to the line rather than take another three points.

But Wales held on and went into the break 12-7 late, knowing they needed a big improvement in the second half to avoid a first-ever home defeat to Italy.

Italy’s half-time lead was only their second in 11 years in the Six Nations and they almost extended it five minutes after the restart.

Monty Ioane looked certain to take the corner after recovering his own kick, but the winger was denied by an outstanding cover tackle from Josh Adams. Wales used that tackle to save the try to hit the forward after 51 minutes thanks to Lake’s early Test score.

The Ospreys hooker powered in as the Wales maul pinned Italy and Biggar managed to convert a post for a 14-12 lead.

Italy regained the lead after Ioane launched a stunning counterattack behind his own line.

Wales were forced to defend deep into their 22, and another home offense saw Garbisi score a single penalty to give Italy a one-point advantage at 15-14.

Wales were throwing caution to the wind and there were signs that Italy were getting tired.

Adams sensed the opportunity as he accepted Ross Moriarty’s long pass, cutting from the touchline and inside two Azzurri forwards to sprint clear for his 19th Test try. Biggar converted for a 21-15 Wales lead but there was a dramatic sting in the tail ahead.

WALES: J McNicholl (C Sheedy 60); L Rees-Zammit, O Watkin, U Halaholo (N Tompkins 45); J Adams; D Biggar (captain), G Davies (K Hardy 66); G Thomas (W Jones 60), D Lake (B Roberts 75), D Lewis (L Brown 40), A Beard, AW Jones (W Rowlands 60), S Davies (R Moriarty 49), J Navidi, T Faletau.

ITALY: A Capuozzo; E Padovani, J Ignacio Brex, L Marin (M Zanon 52), M Ioane; P Garbisi, C Braley; D Fischetti, (C Traore 70) G Nicotera (L Bigi 52), P Ceccarelli (F alongi 52), M Fuser (N Cannone 47), F Ruzza, G Pettinelli (D Sisi 75), M Lamaro (capt), T Halafihi (B Steyn 63).

Arbitrator: A Brace (Ireland).