ROME • Wales just missed out on scoring a bonus point in the first round of the Six Nations rugby championship but their thirst for one helped put them on top of the table on Sunday.
The tournament is, for the first time, employing a bonus-point system operated in professional competitions across Europe and the Southern Hemisphere.
At the end of the opening weekend, Wales topped the table on points difference after a 33-7 victory over lowly Italy, just ahead of the other winners over the weekend, Scotland and England, who both scraped narrow wins.
That would have been the likely outcome even without a bonus-point system, but Wales coach Rob Howley said after the win in Rome that the incentive of a bonus for scoring four tries had put his players in a particularly aggressive mindset from the start.
Captain Alun Wyn Jones opted for an attacking line-out three times in a row, before Italy's stout defence finally persuaded him to give the ball to kicking maestro Leigh Halfpenny, who scored four straight penalties to calm the visitors' nerves.
Having finally scored a try after an hour, Wales could have locked down the match. Instead, they went hunting for the four tries - at the risk of further injury to their key winger, George North.
Even though he was hobbling with a corked right thigh with five minutes left on the clock and the game was already won, he wanted to carry on and ended up going over for a 60-metre try in the 78th minute, Wales' third of the match.
Howley, standing in for Warren Gatland while he is on British and Irish Lions duty, said that Wales would need to lift their game before tackling Grand Slam champions England on Saturday in Cardiff.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE