Echoing today’s 2018 NatWest 6 Nations fixture, 12 years ago we got to witness an Italian side travel to Cardiff to take on Wales in the Championship.
The result would turn out to be a famous one, with the Azzurri securing an 18-18 draw in a heroic performance, this is the story of the match.
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SETTING THE SCENE
Prior to the match in Cardiff Italy had never won a Championship point away from home, but had been competitive in the three previous rounds and had gone down fighting against France, England and Ireland.
Wales were in the midst of a mixed Championship, having lost heavily to England at Twickenham, beaten Scotland 28-18 and then losing 31-5 to Ireland in Dublin.
The Welsh could boast the likes of Lee Byrne, Shane Williams and Martyn Williams in their ranks, whilst Italy took to the field with Marco Bortolami at lock and Sergio Parisse at blindside.
HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
As expected, Wales began the first half in dominant style and with a penalty from the boot of Stephen Jones.
Italy defended well but conceded the opening try when a clever inside ball found Shane Williams and he in turn passed to Mark Jones.
Mirco Bergamasco then made a surging break and several phases later, Italian full-back Ezio Galon crossed following good work from the forwards.
Jones then grabbed a try himself and Ramiro Pez fired back with a penalty, before Pablo Canavosio intercepted a Matthew Watkins pass to run in 60 metres unopposed.
Pez kicked the Azzurri ahead in the second half but Jones equalised on 58 minutes to make it 18-18.
The home side tried desperately to battle their way over the line once again but Italy’s defence held firm, sealing a famous result.
WHAT THEY SAID
Wales caretaker coach Scott Johnson said: “Italy showed great endeavour as did we, but there’s no doubt we should have put the game to bed first half.
“That’s how we play, intent was good, but we didn’t execute well. I’d rather that than see a team limping through.
“Hats off to Italy, but a draw does just feel like kissing your mother-in-law.”
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
Wales returned to Cardiff a week later but failed to win once again, as they were beaten 21-16 by France thanks to Dimitri Szarzewski and Florian Fritz’s tries which gave Les Bleus the title.
Italy came close to another famous result just seven days later as they went down to Scotland 13-10, with the Scots holding on to the advantage after early tries were exchanged between Bergamasco and Chris Paterson.
In the final standings the Azzurri finished sixth whilst Wales finished two points above them in fifth.