Rugby Union / Five Nations' Championship: Cardiff acclaims a feast after the famine: Clem Thomas comments

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The Independent Online
WALES finally emerged from their slough of despond yesterday by scoring three tries of remarkable quality given the impossible conditions. Never have three tries been greeted with such rapture by an ecstatic Cardiff crowd, who have been starved of such luxuries during their drab diet of recent years.

Indeed, never was a win more important to Wales, for defeat would have produced a further collapse of national morale, and almost certainly would have spelled the end of the present coaching regime, who have been put under such pressure by the new cabal that runs Welsh rugby.

After starting slowly, the Welsh produced their best win in the championship since the 27-3 victory against England in 1979. It may well herald a Welsh renaissance.

The Scottish propensity for offside was severely punished by the French referee and this, together with Wales moving the ball in attack, allowed the home side to establish a lead and stay in charge.

That we were given anything resembling a game of rugby football rather than a wallow in the mud reflected well on both sides. In the second half, the Welsh even produced some remarkably good passing movements and when they scored their three tremendous tries with such flowing movements, there were echoes of those old-fashioned Welsh handling skills we have not seen for some time.

Another factor was that, for once, the Welsh forwards gave a quick release to their half- backs, and the Scottish pack were consistently outplayed and out-thought by forwards who showed steel and intelligence, with the Llanelli lock Phil Davies giving the pack real backbone.

The Welsh back row was full of power and very tight in their defence around the fringes. Consequently, Scotland go home to think again. The fact remains that they possess the poorest front five in the Championship.

Behind the respective scrums, Wales moved the ball beautifully and Neil Jenkins at fly-half had his best match in the national colours. Mike Hall made some incisive breaks through the middle and the passing of Nigel Davies was a joy to watch. For Scotland, Gregor Townsend looked a most creative player but had too little opportunity to show his paces.

Those bookmakers who yesterday were offering such generous odds against Wales for the Triple Crown and the Championship will now surely revise their opinions.

Mike Rayer, who came on as a replacement for the concussed Nigel Walker to score two tries, said afterwards: 'It hasn't quite sunk in. It was quite a buzz when I went on the field. The tries were nothing fancy. They just came from quick hands down the line.'

The Welsh captain, Ieuan Evans, who scored the final try, added: 'This showed we can play for 80 minutes. We've had purple patches before, but we kept going and put in a tremendous concerted effort throughout the game. The forwards played with a great deal of aplomb, and we showed a lot of tactical ability.'