Rugby Union: Jenkins relights the Welsh fire

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The Independent Online
IT COULD hardly be described as a classic but that will not worry the Welsh rugby fanatics or their coach, Kevin Bowring. A 30-21 defeat of Ireland at Lansdowne Road yesterday lifted Wales into second place in the Five Nations' Championship and that 60-26 humiliation by England in February is becoming a distant, albeit painful, memory in the Principality.

Wales turned to an old hero, Neil Jenkins, to inspire the victory. Jenkins was infallible with the boot, kicking three penalties and three conversions, against an Irish side who suffered their third Five Nations' defeat despite pressurising the Welsh line for long stretches.

Bowring, who was a marked man in that melting pot called Welsh rugby union, was pleased with any sort of win to follow up the one against Scotland. "Since England we've had to show great character and now that we have improved on the last two Five Nations' performances by winning two games, we can take on France with more confidence," said Bowring. "We've got to take a leaf out of Ireland's book and stop them playing, then who knows?"

The Welsh captain, Rob Howley, revealed that the dressing room talk at half-time centred on ways to overcame Wales' difficulties at the set pieces, with Ireland dominating to edge the first half 15-13. "It took some time to sort out," said Howley. "Our scrum became more powerful and we caused some problems there in the second half."

Ireland, beaten narrowly by both Scotland and France, now face the daunting task of meeting England in their final match at Twickenham next month.

Warren Gatland, the Irish coach, admitted that Wales were the better side. "We've no complaints about the result," he said. "We had a lot of opportunities in the first half and we had the chance to get away from them. But we let Wales back in and it proved costly. We did the basics in Paris but it was the basics that let us down today. "

England travel to Murrayfield today to play in an historic Five Nations match. For the first time the grand old competition will have a game on a Sunday but Dean Richards, the former No 8, yesterday warned England to expect the usual welcome.

"The antagonism from the Scottish supporters is the worst in rugby," said Richards, the new coach of Leicester. "But it just psyches you up for the game."

Chris Rea and Jonathan

Davies, page 20