Cardiff Blues centre, Tom Shanklin, scored a break away try to mark his 50th Wales cap on Saturday, as the Dragons brushed aside Italy with ease to become the only unbeaten side remaining in this years Six Nations tournament.
The Welsh played a magnificent second half, running in 34 unanswered points having led 13-8 at the break, with Ospreys backs, Lee Bryne and Shane Williams, running in a brace each.
Llanelli Scarlets fly half Steven Jones, kicked 20 points for the Welsh, earning a 100% record from the boot. He is now well and truly back in the race with James Hook for the No.10 shirt come Ireland at Croke Park in a fortnight's time.
However, one player whose stock will have fallen is Dwaine Peel. The Sale-bound scrum half was bullied by the Italian forwards, and his delivery was too slow for the backs to be able to work with, when Phillips came on, the game turned massively in the Welsh favour.
It leaves Wales as the only side left who could achieve a Grand Slam or Triple Crown, as France went down at home to England in Saturday's 8pm kick off. With Ireland away and France at home still to come for the men in red, it could be Grand Slam, or a grand flop.
Can Warren Gatland inspire Wales to the Grand Slam, or even just the 6 Nations title, given we can afford to lose in Ireland and still win on points difference. It would be a remarkable turn around for a country who crashed out of the World Cup to Fiji not 5 months ago.
Either way, its been so far, so good with regard to performance, lets hope we haven't seen the best just yet.
Blues players Tom Shanklin, Martyn Williams and Gethin Jenkins started the match, while Deiniol Jones had a 12 minute run out at the end.
Wales (13) 47 Tries: Byrne (2), Shanklin, S Williams (2) Con: S Jones (3), Hook (2) Pens: S Jones (4)
Italy (8) 8 Try: Castrogiovanni Pens: Marcato
Byrne, M Jones, Shanklin, Henson, S Williams, S Jones, Peel, Jenkins, Rees, R Thomas, Gough, Evans, J Thomas, M Williams, R Jones.
Phillips for Peel (44), Bennett for Rees (55), Hook for S Jones (68), Du Jones for R Thomas (68), De Jones for Evans (68), Delve for M Williams (70), Parker for Henson (71).
In other news, Wales under 20's continued their own fine form with a 33-13 win over the Italians on Friday night. Ospreys young fly half Dan Bigger kicked 18 points, while Blues winger Leigh Halfpenny (pictured) scored one of three Welsh tries, the others coming from Gareth Owen and Jonathan Davies.
That result follows last weeks 27-10 win over Scotland, where Halfpenny scored again, however their opening weekend loss at England 28-15, means they have no chance of a triple crown or Grand Slam, however they can still win the tournament. Cardiff Blues' Jevon Groves captains the side.
Great article Andy. Disagree about Peel though. He controlled the game alot better than Phillips would have in that first half. Wales benefited massively from this when Peel had to go off with his injury.
With regards to Phillips, the try he blew through pure greediness was one of the biggest mistakes i have ever seen at any level of rugby. As it happened it didn't matter as Wales won comfortably but on another day that could have cost Wales the game.
Phillips' greediness was typical of him and although he backed himself to get to the corner he just didn't have the pace.
However, I think LiB is right - I was watching the first half and thinking that Peel just looked off the pace. His passing was also the worst I have ever seen from him. At least a couple of his passes hit the floor before reaching Stephen Jones (who I think had a fine game), he was unusually slow getting ball away and his timing was generally below par, with passes often slightly behind the receiver.
Phillips' performance eclipsed that of Peel but that moment of white line fever may cost him when the coaching team look at the videos - you could see that they were livid with Phillips at the time.
It was one of the worst things i have seen in professional rugby. He had two men inside, two men outside, one man to beat after he had been put in the gap by someone else taking a hit. It wasn't even as if he had created it.
Peels passing was poor at times i agree and he certainly wasn't on top form, but he and Jones controlled the first half really well. That first half tired the Italians massively and was the reason we were running through them at will in the second. He is at least a level above Phillips.
Phillips came on, his distribution wasn't much better, (it improved as a whole mainly because Phillips was stuck in rucks and MW etc were doing the passing!) He made one or two breaks but didn't offer much else. Its very easy (relatively - I'm sure us lot wouldn't have found it easy ) coming on and against a tired team who almost immediately went down to 14 men! Well thats my take on it anyway.
For what its worth i also said you couldn't read too much into Peel looking the best SH against Scotland as he came on against a tiring team.
I wouldn't be surprised if Phillips is selected above Peel in Ireland and Gatland will have his reasons, as he has had for his other selections. But i remain miles off being convinced that Phillips is better than Peel even on Saturdays form.
It wasn't so noticeable against Italy but certainly against Scotland it was Martyn Williams who actually played most of the game at scrum half! I was (and still am) incredulous at Martyn's amazing performance in that game.
Martyn was poor by his standards on Sat. Phillips is still not a team player but I think I would start with him and SJ at ten against Ireland. This might come back to haunt me but I think we will beat Ireland with the same game plan as Sat but better execution is needed and we need a strict referee or we will get killed at the breakdown as we are still to timid.
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