Wales 23-19 victory over Italy was marred as stars Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb were stretchered off at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.
Webb twisted his left leg under pressure at a ruck and endured six minutes of treatment on the pitch before being replaced. The second massive injury blow came when Halfpenny, without contact, awkwardly turned his right knee in the 69th minute while trying to field a kick.
The Azzurri on the night scored more tries than the Welsh with Leonardo Sarto and Lorenzo Palazzani touching down while George North scored the men in Reds only try.
But Halfpenny, prior to his injury, exhibited his deadly goal-kicking as he slotted five penalties to secure the win. The total also saw him become just the third player to pass 500 points for Wales.
Italy had initially taken the lead after just three minutes when Sarto dived over in the corner, but Tomasso Allan was off target with the resulting conversion.
Allan soon after slotted a penalty to extend the visitors unlikely lead to eight points. But they were pegged back after 12 minutes when North raced over to score following a wonderfully executed pass from centre Scott Williams.
Halfpenny on this occasion was unable to add the extras but levelled up the scores from a penalty just before the half-hour. Nevertheless, the Azzurri would hold a narrow lead at the break after Allan added another three points from the tee, 8-11.
But despite Italy’s intensity in defence, Wales got themselves into the lead through two further Halfpenny penalties yet Carlos Canna’s drop-goal levelled the end-to-end affair once again, 14-14.
However, a further two kicks from Halfpenny and one from stand-in kicker Dan Biggar saw Wales race into a 23-14 lead
Palazzani then crossed in the corner with the final attack of the game, with Canno missing the conversion from a tricky angle, 23-19.
Despite defeat Italy will have gained confidence from their much-improved display going into their first tough World Cup opener against France at Twickenham.
However, for Wales, the injuries combined the largely disjointed performance means Warren Gatland still has a lot of work to do before they begin their “Pool of Death” against Uruguay on September 20th.
Ruck man of the match- Scott Williams
Scott Williams was Wales’s potent force in attack throughout the game. The centre looked the one player capable of unlocking Italy’s robust defence on a regular basis and did so to set up the hosts only try when he located George North, who raced in to touch down. The 24-year old, who has represented Wales from U16 onwards, is always improving and could be possibly an unexpected star of the impending World Cup, especially if Wales are without Halfpenny.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Scott Williams, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 James King, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Paul James, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Matthew Morgan.
Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Francesco Minto, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Joshua Furno, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Samuela Vunisa, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Luke McLean.