Italy weathered a late Wales fightback as they claimed a 19-15 victory in their Six Nations opener at Cardiff Arms Park.
The Italian’s twice saw tries ruled out by the TMO and were at times their own worst enemy as they squandered a host of scoring chances.
Their overall display would be rewarded though, and Wales were unable to force the issue as they looked the turn the game around late on.
Despite Wales enjoying 80 per cent of the possession in the opening five minutes and taking a 3-0 lead through an early penalty, it was Italy who always looked more threatening in attack.
A smart kick behind the Wales defence looked certain to end in an Italy try inside a quarter of an hour, but Jasmine Joyce covered superbly to mop up on her try line.
The hosts were fortunate not to go behind after 24 minutes when Italy, who finished second in last year’s Championship, put a succession of phases together and Melissa Bettoni touched down.
Wales were ultimately spared by the TMO, however, as an Italian player was adjudged to have blocked off a Welsh tackler in the build up to the score.
Italy were again left wondering how they were trailing seven minutes before the break as a smart passing move sent Maria Magatti away on the wing.
She looked certain to score but Hannah Jones got across superbly to hold up the Italian winger and preserve Wales’ narrow lead.
That advantage would last a matter of moments as Bettoni crashed over to give Italy a 5-3 lead.
The score seemed to spark Wales into life and they finally made inroads into the Italy 22 at the end of the half as Jones burst through three tackles to score in the corner.
Robyn Wilkins added the extras with a fine conversion to ensure Wales, largely against the run of play, led 10-5 at half-time.
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The theme of Italian near misses continued after the restart when Keira Brown’s box-kick was charged down and bounced over the try line.
Fortunately for Wales, Wilkins was alert to the danger and raced back to ground the ball before the chasing Italians could profit.
The visiting side’s frustrations were only heightened with 50 minutes on the clock when the TMO again denied them a try after the ball was dropped before being grounded.
With welsh legs tiring, the Italian pressure finally told on 55 minutes as Sara Barattin made a superb break.
Joyce managed to prevent the scrum-half scoring, but Magatti was on hand to recycle the ball and dot down under the posts before Michela Sillari slotted the conversion.
By now Wales were struggling to get out of their own 22 and a third Italian try arrived after a well worked scrum ended in Sofia Stefan finishing from close range as a converted score made it 19-10.
Wales then turned to their set piece and managed to find a route back into the game as a well-worked lineout saw Kelsey Jones break free and score in the corner.
The usually reliable Wilkins saw her conversion attempt drift wide from the touchline and, try as they might, Wales couldn’t bridge the four-point deficit and had to settle for a losing bonus-point.
Wales will look to bounce back when they take on Ireland at Energia Park next Sunday, while Italy are away at France on Saturday.