Boyos bred in Heaven

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THERE was a time when the biennial Welsh invasion of Edinburgh was something other than a conference for doubting Thomases - and Joneses and Evanses, for that matter. Evidence of this was glimpsed on BBC1 on Friday night with footage of the first Welsh Grand Slam of the 1970s, when Murrayfield witnessed John Taylor's "greatest conversion since St Paul". Will Carling even confessed on camera that he once wept when JPR was carried off injured, so deep did his affection run for those boyos who were bred in Heaven and for the sideburned warrior who was as much the first point of attack as last line of defence.

Yet, as Craig Chalmers kicked off another Five Nations campaign in Scotland's capital yesterday, a growing generation from west of Offa's Dyke could not recall the day the Dragon last roared at Murrayfield, let alone set alight the rugby world with its breathtaking firebrand play.

Twelve years, in fact, had passed since Wales triumphed on a trip beyond Hadrian's Wall. David Pickering scored two tries that day and his return to Edinburgh, as manager of the Emerging Wales team, brought an answer to pleas for Heavenly bread with a 56-11 stuffing against Scotland A at Goldenacre on Friday.

"Total embarrassment as Scots slaughter Wales" was the headline in the copies of the Western Mail sold by Princes Street's vendors yesterday. The national newspaper of Wales was equally sombre in its previewing of the big game: the former Welsh captains Mike Hall and Brian Price chorusing voices of doom. Having seen so many new dawns fade on Five Nations afternoons, the Welsh did not share the wider expectation of beholding a more lasting one in 1997.

The pipes and drums struck up "Yesterday" when Wales emerged to inspect the pitch, and the men in red clearly believed in the recreating of past glories. Scott Quinnell's last Five Nations try, against the French three years ago, contributed to the only outright Welsh championship success since the 1970s. He burst through yesterday at roughly the same patch where his uncle Barry had made his final Murrayfield touch, in the move that yielded Gerald Davies's late try in 1971.

Barry John hung up his boots at 27 when a girl curtsied to him at an Eisteddfod. At 3pm yesterday the latest bearer of the red No 10 mantle seemed likely to provoke similar devotion only if he were to be mistaken for Aled Jones. By full-time, though, the cherub-cheeked Arwel Thomas had acceded to the throne.

If Quinnell was the cornerstone of the 34-19 victory, the try Thomas conjured in his team's second-half spell was the defining moment of the Welsh show; there were shades of the quicksilver John and the jinking Phil Bennett in the blinding break.

The wails were not from the Welsh on Princes Street last night. There was not a doubting Thomas to be found.