x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Six Nations round-up: Wales stay on track for Grand Slam

Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert scored tries for Wales as they beat Italy 24-3 in Cardiff, while Ireland beat Scotland.

Jamie Roberts scores the first try for Wales against Italy in their victory in Cardiff.
Jamie Roberts scores the first try for Wales against Italy in their victory in Cardiff.

Alex Cuthbert said Wales were still not yet thinking about achieving a Grand Slam despite making it four wins out of four by beating Italy in the Six Nations in Cardiff yesterday.

The hosts comfortably won 24-3 to leave themselves needing to beat France in their final game, in Cardiff, to complete a clean sweep.

But Cuthbert, who scored Wales' second try in the victory, claimed the squad were still not thinking that far ahead. "Not at all, we are just taking each game as it comes," he told the BBC.

Wales had to work hard to break down the Italians, having to wait 50 minutes before getting their first try through Jamie Roberts.

Cuthbert paid tribute to the Azzurri effort, saying: "We knew it was going to be tough from the start.

"Their work rate was outstanding. It was hard to break them down. But we knew if we worked hard we'd grind them down for a win."

Warren Gatland, the Wales coach, acknowledged that a perfect campaign was within their grasp.

"You've got a chance, you're at home," he told the BBC. "I think next week we'll try and keep our heads down and try not to do too much. If we do achieve a Grand Slam it will be pretty special."

Gatland said his players were "flat" despite the victory.

"I thought we played some great rugby in the first half," he said. "The man with the whistle didn't make it easy for us, I thought he was pedantic. That was a little bit frustrating.

"But the boys tried really hard and at the end of the day we're four from four.

"The boys are a bit flat in the dressing room. I thought they really wanted to score some points today and didn't really get a chance."

The first half had been dominated by the boot as Wales toiled against the Italian defence. They went in 9-3 up at the break thanks to three penalties from Leigh Halfpenny, the full-back, with Mirco Bergamasco, making his first appearance since the Rugby World Cup for Italy, kicking one penalty.

Wales finally breached Italy's rearguard 10 minutes after the restart when Rhys Priestland found Roberts, whose angled 40-metre run took him clear and over for a try that Halfpenny converted.

Halfpenny then spent 10 minutes off the field, sin-binned by referee George Clancy for an aerial challenge on Sergio Parisse, the Italian captain.

The brief numerical disadvantage did not hurt Wales though as Priestland landed a penalty, before Cuthbert, the winger, completed the scoring two minutes from time as he ran over for an unconverted try.

Meanwhile, Andy Robinson lashed out at his Scotland defence after his side fell to their sixth successive loss.

Ireland ran in four tries at the Aviva Stadium to move up to second in the Six Nations table, while Scotland now face a wooden spoon decider against Italy next weekend in Rome.

Robinson, the Scotland coach, told the BBC: “Defensively we were naive in the first 40 minutes – you can’t afford to give Ireland three scores as we did.

“They were too easy, you’ve got to be able to hold your line in international rugby and to concede like that was really disappointing.”

Adding to Scotland’s woes was the second-half departure of winger Lee Jones following a sickening clash of heads with opposite number Andrew Trimble.

The incident occurred during the 62nd minute when Ireland scrambled furiously inside their own 22, with Jones collapsing instantly from the collision before being carried off on a stretcher.

Scotland could only marvel at the clinical finishing displayed by Ireland, whose status as the championship’s most dangerous side was safeguarded by another four-try haul.

Assisted by some erratic Scottish defending, Rory Best, who captained the side in the absence of the injured Paul O’Connell, Eoin Reddan, Trimble and Fergus McFadden crossed the whitewash while Jonathan Sexton, the fly-half, kicked 12 points.

Richie Gray scored Scotland’s lone try, while Greig Laidlaw, the fly-half, kicked three first-half penalties.