Howley leads call to Arms

Jonathan Davies believes that Welsh adventure has been rewarded at last
Click to follow
The Independent Online
GLORY took a long time coming for Wales, but it finally arrived at the Arms Park yesterday and the fact that there was only one point in it didn't spoil the celebrations. Why should it? Wales contributed so much adventure to this Five Nations' championship that they didn't deserve to finish empty-handed.

They even managed to win the championship for England, which shows how generous the Welsh are in their new expansive role. Had Wales played as effectively and as aggressively in the other three games, they might have been in the battle for the top rather than the bottom position.

As it was, they nearly threw it away again. A very good first half, in which they showed excellent qualities, was followed by a half in which they let France back into a game that became an out-and-out dogfight.

Wales remembered in time that a good place to be is the French quarter. In the second half they should have kept pounding the ball back into the corners to drive deep into French territory. France's indiscipline is such that, the longer opponents spend in their quarter, the more points the French are going to give away by losing their heads.

But the Welsh will learn to use their heads. The most important thing is that those heads are up now and they can face their summer tour of Australia with confidence.

There were so many candidates for Welsh man of the match. Robert Howley's try was obviously decisive and showed all the pace, aggression and balance that makes him such a good player. He does everything so well and his fantastic distribution from set play gives his outside men that vital extra second.

Nigel Davies made several crucial breaks, the giants Derwyn Jones and Gareth Llewellyn dominated the line-outs, Jonathan Humphries won vital balls on the floor and Gwyn Jones had another super game. But the most telling factor in the end lay in having the character not to give in when the French came back at them.

France can have no complaints. The idea of moving Abdel Benazzi to the second row did not work and I am afraid that,at outside half, Castaignede has got a lot to learn. His opposite number in the Welsh team, Neil Jenkins, brought the measure of control and steadiness that was needed.

England might think they have done well. But they have hardly dominated in the way that champions should and the great strength of the Five Nations tournament this year has been that everyone has contributed to the excitement in one way or another. Wales will be delighted to have been prominent in that direction.