Rugby Union / Five Nations' Championship: Optimism renewed once more: Ken Jones watches a welcome return to traditional values

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TOO SOON for talk of renaissance, but glory be, three splendid tries, more, much more, than the beleagured Welsh coach, Alan Davies could have hoped for.

At last a sense of traditional values, handling skills on which the golden era of Welsh rugby was founded. Quick hands down the line, as Mike Rayer, a first-half replacement for the concussed Nigel Walker put it after scoring two tries that raised forests of cheering supporters in the stands.

It is quick minds that Davies is after. Tactical nous to go with flair. Brightness.

Probably, defeat would have made Davies's position impossible, nourishing the antagonism his methods have aroused. Victory, even against a Scottish team who bore the psychological scars of a battering from the All Blacks, provides a breathing space.

Encouraging, certainly. But the optimism felt at the Arms Park when Wales ultimately took advantage of tired legs and a demoralised Scottish front row is itself a burdensome thing.

Twelve months ago an unlikely triumph over England at Cardiff, one that was beyond imagination, proved to be another mirage.

In such circumstances it would be easier to hold down an airship than keep Welsh feet on the floor, so can Davies and his cohorts persuade a realistic appraisal of what amounts to no more than progress? 'We can only do our best,' he said.

On the way to the station, groups of Welsh supporters, oblivious to the stair-rodding rain that fell throughout the day were in no mood for reality. Splashing through puddles, retrieving mud- spattered rosettes from churning gutters, they were back in another time. Better if it had been England, but no matter.

'Three bloody tries,' a large man said. 'Three bloody tries, when was the last time we managed that?' It was a question that would be asked more than once on the train to Paddington, and, such is the bleakness of recent history, unanswerable. Three tries, a resounding success, but hard days to come. Ireland in Dublin, France at the Arms Park. Then come England at Twickenham.

'To use the old cliche, let's take each game as it comes,' said the Welsh captain, Ieuan Evans, who is more than familiar with disappointments.

As Neil Jenkins prepared to

attempt a conversion with only seconds left on the clock, Evans exchanged hugs with his players, their happy response indicating a renewal of optimism.

Three tries. Heady stuff in an era of attrition when he who kicks cleanest is likely to win the day. Echoes from the past, but not exactly the stuff of Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett, Gerald Davies and Barry John. 'That was better,' Edwards said.

Better yes, but it would be foolish for any Welshman to read more into victory than Alan Davies did. Progess, that is what he was on about.

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