Rugby Union: Brilliant Jenkins inspires a nation

Wales 33 Canada 19 Tries: Jenkins, Walne Tries: Lougheed Con: Jenkins Con: Rees Pens: Jenkins (7) Pens: Rees (3) Drop: Rees Half- time: 21-9 Attendance: 50,000
Click to follow
The Independent Online
WHATEVER NEIL JENKINS is being paid for a Wales victory - the rumour mills were grinding out sums from pounds 7,000 to pounds 11,000 a match - he is worth that and more. There is no doubt the 45,000 spectators would have had the collection buckets overflowing yesterday as the fly-half inspired Wales to their seventh successive win, and their second at the stunning Millennium Stadium. The overall display was not a patch on the one which accounted for South Africa in June, but it was still a win.

Of course Jenkins did the usual with the boot. That is a given these days. Missed kicks are rare enough to silence a Cardiff crowd in full voice - there were two such moments against Canada - but what stopped everyone in their tracks was the deftness with which he scooped up the ball from Scott Gibbs' pass in the tackle, finger-tipped it into a more secure grip and belted over the line in the 53rd minute.

That try, more than any of his seven penalty kicks and his one conversion, lifted the Wales side and earned Rob Howley a place in the pantheon of Welsh rugby as he became the first man to captain his side in seven consecutive victories, a run which began against France in the Five Nations and has seen Italy, England, Argentina, twice, and South Africa also come unstuck.

Jenkins' try restored a natural order to events just when things were threatening to conspire against the home side after a shaky start. Indeed it was only Jenkins' immaculate first-half performance with the boot which laced together enough of a lead for Wales to trot in apparently well up at half-time. There was a feeling that the Canucks were more interested in physical rather than territorial domination. There were some shatteringly hard hits and, sadly, some gratuitous off-the-ball stuff.

That showed in a niggly first half, in which Craig Quinnell and Mark Cardinal were shown yellow cards for waving their feather dusters at each other. But Wales had not begun all that well anyway, despite Jenkins' first two kicks within seven minutes. First the Dragons conceded a silly penalty, going over the top within Rees's range, then they let the Canadian captain land a soft drop-goal as their defence spread following a tap penalty.

The Canadians posed plenty of problems whenever they attacked down the tight channels, flanker Dan Baugh, who plays for Cardiff, making frequent inroads and setting up good positions. Out wide, Dave Lougheed, a more familiar figure on the wing for Leicester last season, looked threatening at outside centre and when they were under pressure, which was not all that often it has to be said, he tackled his weight in defence.

Wales would have scored the game's first try had it not been for some ill-advised skulduggery at a 15th-minute line-out when the flanker Geraint Lewis was spotted blocking a Canadian. The whistle blew as Craig Quinnell was touching down.

Had it not been for Jenkins' reliability thereafter, the Canadians might well have asserted themselves. As it was, the Welsh forwards began to wrest control from their opponents. And Jenkins made Canada pay dearly every time they were guilty of carelessness and, it has to be said, downright crassness. But the stuffing began to come out of their comfortable half- time cushion soon after the restart, and the very loud crowd was stunned into silence when Lougheed rounded off some fine work by touching down for a try after half-a-dozen well-worked phases. The subsequent conversion and a third penalty for Rees reduced the margin to a distinctly edgy two points.

Then came that Jenkins try. Gibbs drew the cover, absorbed two tackles and made the ball available. Jenkins revealed fantastic dexterity to score. More pressure resulted in a scrum on the left. Having won it, the ball was shunted hither and thither before Nick Walne streaked over for his first try for Wales on his third appearance.

Wales: S Howarth (Newport); N Walne, L Davies (both Cardiff), S Gibbs (Swansea), A Bateman (Northampton); N Jenkins (Cardiff), R Howley (Cardiff, capt); P Rogers (Newport), J Humphreys (Cardiff), B Evans (Swansea), C Quinnell (Cardiff), A Moore (Swansea), G Lewis (Pontypridd), S Quinnell (Llanelli), M Williams (Cardiff). Replacements: A Lewis (Cardiff) for Humphreys, 45; G Llewellyn (Harlequins) for C Quinnell, 68; D Young (Cardiff) for Evans, 68; S Jones (Llanelli) for Gibbs, 80; C Wyatt (Llanelli) for S Quinnell, 80.

Canada: S Stewart (Bedford); W Stanley (James Bay), D Lougheed (Leicester), S Bryan (Balmy Beach) C Smith (Meraloma); G Rees (Bedford), M Williams (Pacific Pride); R Snow (Newport), M Cardinal (James Bay), R Bice (Vancouver Rowing Club), J Tait (Cardiff), M James (Perpignan), J Hutchinson (Suntory), A Charron (Bristol), D Baugh (Cardiff). Replacements: R Banks (Bedford) for Hutchinson, h-t; J Thiel (James Bay) for Bice, 69; M Schmid (Rotherham) for Tait, 69; B Ross (James Bay) for Rees, 75.

Referee: D McHugh (Ireland).