Davies the inspiration for Wales

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The Independent Online
France 10

Wales 22

Wales defied the conditions and recovered from a dreadful start to win the European Championship for the first time since 1938. Their captain, Jonathan Davies, was their inspiration, setting up two of his side's tries and landing three goals to bring them a victory which will send them into this October's Centenary World Cup in great heart.

Wales were behind to a penalty from Stephane Millet and a try from Bruno Llong before they got into their stride in an unseasonably wet and windy Carcassonne.

But then Iestyn Harris touched down, and Wales went ahead in the 28th minute when Martin Hall sent in Allan Bateman, who was almost not able to make the trip after having trouble getting time off work.

France regained the lead five minutes before half-time when their experienced winger, Jean-Marc Garcia, followed up Patrick Torreilles' high kick to the corner to force the ball down.

The second half belonged to the Welsh, upon whom the contrast with the fortunes of the rugby union side that nurtured many of them was not lost.

Little more than a minute after the restart, Davies's superb side-stepping run released the Wigan full-back, Paul Atcheson, for the crucial try of the match. Davies added the conversion, and then it was his towering kick that forced a mistake from Claude Sirvent to give Bateman his second try.

Two more Davies penalties before the end set the seal on a memorable day for Welsh rugby league. Victories over England and France made them European Champions after a 57-year gap.

"Hopefully, now the Welsh fans have seen what we can do, they will support us in the World Cup," Davies said. "This is just a stepping stone to the World Cup for us and things are looking very rosy."

The Welsh team manager, Mike Nicholas, said: "The conditions today were very poor, but the boys stuck at it and showed a great belief in themselves. We have surpassed our own expectations and I'm sure the people in Wales will be very proud."

France: Lucchese (Sheffield); Sirvent (St Gaudens), Chamorin (St Gaudens), Millet (St Gaudens), Garcia (St Esteve); Despin (Limoux), Entat (Leeds, capt); Teixido (Limoux), Torreilles (Pia), Llong (Catalan), Divet (Featherstone), Attia (Cannes), Valero (Lezignan). Substitutes: Pech (Pia) for Attia 48, Coles (Catalan) for Llong 57, Hebert (Pia) for Pech 59, Banquet (Featherstone) for Millet (67).

Wales: Atcheson (Wigan); Sullivan (St Helens), Devereux (Widnes), Bateman (Warrington), Harris (Warrington); Davies (Warrington, capt), Ellis (Workington); Skerrett (Wigan), Hall (Wigan), Young (Salford), Moriarty (Halifax), Perrett (Halifax), Eyres (Leeds). Substitutes: Cowie (Wigan) for Young 49, Philips (Workingston) for Perrett 57, Hadley (Widnes) for Devereux 65, Ford (Salford) for Sullivan 77.

Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).

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