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Six Nations

Italy snatch draw in Cardiff

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2006 Six Nations Wales-Italy

Image credit: Reuters

ByEurosport
11/03/2006 at 15:22

Italy came desperately close to their first away win in the Six Nations on Saturday before having to settle for an 18-18 draw with Wales in Cardiff. Italy, who joined the championship six years ago, had previously beaten Scotland and Wales in Rome but thi

Wales looked far superior in the first half, although if Italy flyhalf Ramiro Pez had been more accurate with his goalkicking the visitors could have celebrated a notable win.

The draw left Wales with three points from four games and ended their slim hopes of retaining the title. Italy have one point.

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It was 15-15 at halftime and most of the 72,000 in the Millennium Stadium must have spent the break wondering how.

Wales led 8-0 early on with a neat try from winger Mark Jones and a Stephen Jones penalty before Italy hit back through Ezio Galon.

Image credit: Reuters

The fullback had a clear run in from the left wing, but held on to the ball so long before grounding that the video referee needed two minutes before deciding that he had touched down just before sliding over the dead ball line.

Wales replied with a Stephen Jones try after a quick tapped penalty by Mike Phillips, on as an early scrumhalf replacement for Dwayne Peel.

After a Pez penalty, Italy struck just before halftime when Pablo Canavosio intercepted a Matthew Watkins pass to race 80 metres and score his first international try.

Pez converted to make it level at halftime. The flyhalf missed another penalty attempt within a minute of the restart before splitting the posts five minutes later after a deliberate obstruction by Lee Byrne.

That 18-15 advantage meant Italy had led early in the second half of all four matches - against Ireland, England, France and now the Welsh.

In the previous three they had fallen away badly to lose but Wales lacked the creativity or control to force the visitors into late errors.

Image credit: Reuters

Pez missed a chance to stretch the lead to six when he sprayed another kick wide, his fourth miss, and the flyhalf was clearly struggling with a heavily-strapped thigh.

Wales levelled with another Jones penalty on the hour. From then on the game lost its shape as nerves began to tell on both sides and the error count climbed.

The Welsh, hard-hit by injuries and the loss of coach Mike Ruddock, were unrecognisable from the team who thumped Italy 38-8 in Rome a year ago en route to their grand slam and rarely threatened the Italian line in the closing stages.

"You have to take your hat off to them, they showed great endeavour - we showed great endeavour, we just couldn't finish our good work off," Wales caretaker coach Scott Johnson told reporters.

"We probably should have put the game to bed at halftime but just didn't."

Italy coach Pierre Berbizier was pleased that his team had maintained their composure and concentration to the end: "We have played 80 minutes the same spirit, we were close to the win but the draw was a good result," said the Frenchman.

Image credit: Reuters

Italy host Scotland in their final game next Saturday while Wales are at home to France.

Later on Saturday Ireland host Scotland while France play England in Paris on Sunday. All four teams have four points from two wins and a defeat.

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