Rubgby Union: Davies crowns career

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The Independent Online
When Jonathan Davies whispered that retirement can now be contemplated with a great deal of satisfaction, he didn't mean it to be taken that a decision about the rest of his life is imminent.

If the moment draws inexorably closer for the 32-year- old Welshman, he retains such a verve for rugby league that further noble contributions can be expected from him.

None, however, are likely to surpass the effort he made in Great Britain's colours against Australia at Wembley, not only a marvellous try that vividly recalled his dazzling effectiveness in rugby union but the shuddering tackles that are a prime requirement in the professional game.

So many Welshmen have found the transition from union to league difficult that when Davies went north in 1989 it was widely perceived that the move would end in tears.

Overlooked was the legacy of hardness that quickly forced acceptance in the north-west of England and led to an individual performance memorable even within the heroic collective endeavour that will be long remembered in the annals of his adopted game.

Hence, it can be concluded that when Davies was named man of the match by hard-bitten rugby league correspondents, his tackling figured as prominently in their minds as an inspirational try. To hear Davies say: 'I can now retire happy' probably took this into account.

He was nursing the damaged shoulder that forced him permanently from the field after 58 minutes, the pain bringing on nausea and an unusual reluctance to communicate with reporters in a dressing- room awash with understandable euphoria.

Next week, Davies is due to face Australia at Cardiff in the Welsh colours, an appointment he may now be struggling to keep.

Wembley is made for a player of Davies's class and his form had cancelled out the frustration he felt after performing disappointingly there for Warrington in last season's Challenge Cup final. 'I've scored in most of the great stadiums, so it was nice to get a try at Wembley,' he said before submitting to the physiotherapist's probing fingers.

There are moments in sport so thrillingly obvious that no depth of understanding is required to appreciate them. This applied completely to Davies's try. First a dummy that flummoxed Steve Renouf and Brad Fittler, then a 50-yard dash that thwarted Australia's cover, and a dive to touch down in the corner.

It was enough to sustain the extraordinary level of resistance Great Britain achieved to compensate for the loss of their captain, Shaun Edwards, who was sent for a reckless tackle on Bradley Clyde after 25 minutes.

Contrite in the dressing- room tunnel afterwards, his stupidity probably the result of being conditioned by palpably lenient refereeing in club matches, Edwards admitted that he was unable to watch the rest of the match.

'I got dressed and walked around the stadium, trying to follow what was happening from the noise,' he said.

The noise grew and grew as Great Britain valiantly defended their line against wave after wave of Australian attacks. Renouf's try eight minutes from time was a heart- stopper but that was it. Heroes everywhere. A tremendous match that fulfilled all expectations.