Josh Adams’s hat-trick and a free-flowing Wales performance opened up the 2020 Guinness Six Nations to herald a new era under Wayne Pivac.
For anyone wondering if Pivac could bring his enterprising style to the Championship or if Wales have a good chance at defending their Grand Slam crown we’re now pretty certain of both – a huge statement made in a five-try to nil win.
With the head coach taking over after 12 trophy-laden Warren Gatland years, Pivac’s first Test witnessed a clear licence to entertain – encapsulated by the ball flung wide for Adams’ early opener and even more so by Dan Biggar’s genius-like through-the-legs pass to assist the wing’s second.
That score signalled Adams’ 11th international try since the start of 2019 – more than any other player in the world – the next trick in the book coming on debut for the hugely-impressive Nick Tompkins, we are going to be seeing a lot of him.
Pragmatic this display was not, Tomos Williams confidently waving the ball above his head at one stage, the bonus point secured by George North, Adams putting the cherry on the cake and the Cardiff crowd sent home in raptures.
Both sides flew into the opening ten minutes at an always-raucous Principality Stadium, with Biggar notching the first points of this year’s Championship and Carlo Canna breaking to the left – followed by a disguised backhand pass straight out of the Azzurri locker.
Mattia Bellini couldn’t make it to the line and a minute later Leigh Halfpenny got even closer, the ball sprayed wide and Adams’ chip through knocked on by the full-back five metres out.
A second penalty to Wales, Biggar accurate as ever and Pivac’s men were off again, this time Tomos Williams almost touching down but for Tommaso Allan’s last-ditch intervention.
Biggar struck again before the Cardiff crowd roared to their feet on 18 minutes – Adams, a perfectly-timed dive into the left-hand corner – nobody does it better.
Much more was to come for the voracious home support as Wales surged forward once more, Williams out to Biggar and a mind-bending through-the-legs pass that flummoxed half of Europe, but not the ever-sharp Adams.
Italy kicked to the corner with the last action of the half but couldn’t get over, and after the interval had the chance for three points but opted for a scrum.
Franco Smith’s replacement props helped win another penalty but Italy continued to lose possession in contact, increasing frustration evident among the players.
Mini-storm weathered, Wales launched a fresh barrage of attacks and as the hour approached the levee broke – Tompkins on for Hadleigh Parkes and searing to the line with a nimble step and ferocious finish.
The 24-year-old Tompkins almost turned provider minutes later but North’s try was brought back for a knock-on. With three minutes to go the adopted centre made sure of the bonus point as he crashed over the line, Adams repeating the trick as the clock went red.
This match will be remembered for Adams’ lethal hat-trick, impenetrable defence and Tompkins’ eye-catching debut, but even more so for that Biggar pass.
Whoever said the Northampton Saints fly-half was steady rather than extravagant? Not the man himself clearly, with Biggar’s sumptuous and spontaneous pass one for the highlights reel for a long, long time.
PLAYER WATCH – Josh Adams
So many hands were put up in this dominant win, Wales scored ten tries in all in last year’s Championship, they already have five this time around.
Openside Justin Tipuric won Player of the Match but many eyes are focused on Adams, his trio of superb tries the latest display of his ruthless streak.
His first was trademark, his second a result of Biggar brilliance and his third sheer power – Adams has made an early move for Player of the Championship.
TRIES: Adams (17′,29′,80′) ,Tompkins (58′), North (75′)
CONVERSIONS: Biggar (30′,60′) Halfpenny (76′,80′)
PENALTIES : Biggar (3′,10′,15′)
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; Johnny McNicholl, George North, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Ryan Elias, Rob Evans, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, Ross Moriarty, Rhys Webb, Jarrod Evans, Nick Tompkins.
Italy: Matteo Minozzi; Leonardo Sarto, Luca Morisi, Carlo Canna, Mattia Bellini; Tommaso Allan, Callum Braley, Giosuè Zilocchi, Luca Bigi (capt), Andrea Lovotti, Alessandro Zanni, Niccolò Cannone, Sebastian Negri, Jake Polledri, Abraham Steyn.
Replacements: Federico Zani, Danilo Fischetti, Marco Riccioni, Marco Lazzaroni, Dean Budd, Giovanni Licata, Guglielmo Palazzani, Jayden Hayward.
Wales v Italy
@ Principality Stadium
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: James Leckie (Australia)