Monday February 25, 2013
Howley hails Wales as title defence remains intact
ROME: Wales interim coach Rob Howley hailed the flexibility of his players as the Six Nations champions maintained their title defence hopes with a 26-9 victory over Italy.
Despite a 16-6 win over France last time out, Wales came into their third game of the series with question marks hovering — mainly because that win brought an end to seven straight defeats.
For the sizeable Welsh support in Rome it was a nervous day at a rain-soaked Olympic Stadium after the visitors went in for half-time leading only 9-6 after a flurry of penalties for both sides.
But after Tomasso Benvenuti missed a golden chance to give Italy the first try of the match early after the restart, Wales regrouped to score two tries through Jonathan Davies and Alex Cuthbert.
Leigh Halfpenny, who had kicked all three of Wales’s penalties in the first half — while Kris Burton put two penalties over for the Azzurri — converted both tries and went on to add a further penalty to finish on 16 points.
Wales next face Scotland at Murrayfield on March 9 and host unbeaten England a week later at the Millennium Stadium for what pundits have already labelled the championship title-decider.
Ahead of those challenges, Howley applauded his side’s ability to adapt as periodic downpours in the first half ended all hopes for a game of open, flowing rugby.
“There weren’t always going to be opportunities in a game like that and probably the conditions suited Italy,” said Howley, acting as head coach after Warren Gatland took over Lions coaching duties.
“The deluge that came in the first half as well meant that the ball was very greasy and it was difficult under foot. We had to change our gameplan a little bit.” — AFP