Six Nations - Hook shines as Wales finish on a high

Reuters - Sat, 20 Mar 13:52:00 2010

James Hook scored two tries as Wales ended their disappointing Six Nations campaign on a high by outclassing Italy 33-10 in a one-sided encounter at the Millennium Stadium.

James Hook scores one of two tries against Italy in their Six Nations clash in Cardiff - 0

Shane Williams added a third as Wales turned on the style in the second half, while fly-half Stephen Jones scored 18 points with a faultless goal kicking display.

"It was a very good performance, the most complete performance of the Six Nations, though it came in the last game which is disappointing," Jones said.

Wales, with four points, finish the championship in fourth place for the second year running, while Scotland's later win over Ireland condemned the Italians to a third successive wooden spoon.

It was a very different-looking Wales side from in their first four games with the return of experienced back-rower Ryan Jones, prop Gethin Jenkins and scrum-half Mike Phillips and the addition of Sam Warburton at openside flanker and debutant Tom Prydie on the wing.

At 18 years and 25 days Prydie became Wales's youngest-ever international and the youngest from any country to feature in the Six Nations.

Italy, already hard-hit by injuries coming into the game, lost scrum-half Pablo Canavosio after 25 minutes as they spent the majority of the first half defending their line.

They did a good job of it, restricting the Welsh to four Jones penalties in the first 40 minutes.

Outside centre Hook finally cracked them after 51 minutes when he broke a weak tackle to get the crowd on their feet.

Italy then had Mauro Bergamasco sin-binned and Wales cashed in immediately with Hook's second after great work by Jones.

Williams got in on the act with his 51st international try, and one of his easiest, after Jones was hauled down just short.

Wales, heavily criticised for their performance in last week's 27-12 defeat in Ireland, continued to attack with pace and invention but Italy had the final word with a great sidestepping try by full-back Luke McLean.

"I thought we played some outstanding rugby today," said Wales coach Warren Gatland. "We showed potentially what we are capable of. In other games we've let ourselves down and been behind and having to chase games.

"There were 23 minutes of ball in play in the first half, if you put a team under pressure for that amount of time, often the opportunities will come in the second half."

Gatland summed up Wales's overall tournament as "pretty frustrating."

"We haven't performed to our potential, there were a couple of games we've let slip and we think the position in the table doesn't really reflect where we are," he said.

"We still have a few things to work on but we think when we get everything right we can trouble any team in the world."

Italy coach Nick Mallett said he was proud of his side's efforts in difficult circumstances.

"I think they did absolutely fantastically in defence, we could have taken five or six more tries," he said.

"We had lots of guys falling like flies on the field from after two minutes, we had three injuries on Thursday, we've just taken 45 points from France so, far from being disappointed, I'm very proud of the guys."


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