Rugby Union: Thomas benefits from Welsh winning habit

Italy 21 Wales 60
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The Independent Online
THE ITALIANS thought this was going to be their big moment. They took the game to the rugby hot-bed of Treviso, packed the ground with 7,000 expectant fans and felt confident they were going to be good enough to beat Wales for the first time in six starts.

After all, this Italian side had come within a decent refereeing decision of beating England in a World Cup qualifier in Huddersfield four months ago and was packed with experience.

In the end, though, they were blown away by a Welsh side playing with ever increasing stature and confidence following their win over France in Paris two weeks earlier. There was a ruthless edge about everything they did, greater understanding of the style the coach Graham Henry wants his team to adopt and complete dominance of the Italians.

Three tries in the first win on French soil for 24 years was good, but seven in Treviso were more than almost any side in the world has managed against the Italians in recent years.

There was a 30-minute purple patch in the second half when almost everything went right and the game turned into a romp for Wales. The measure of the advances made was superbly illustrated by the four tries that flowed in that time.

Having got off to a flying start, with Craig Quinnell notching his third try in as many games from a sixth-minute line-out, some silly errors allowed the Italians to claw their way back. By half-time, though, Gareth Thomas had steadied the ship with the first of his record-equalling four tries and Wales were back in front by two points.

Then came the onslaught. Thomas was sent between the posts by Scott Gibbs and a minute later Dafydd James released Neil Jenkins on a 40-metre run. There were two more in as many minutes at the start of the final quarter when Thomas raced in from half-way and Rob Howley gathered a loose ball 35 metres out.

Jenkins' boot made the damage even greater. By the end of the game he had extended by six his own Welsh points record for a match with 30.

The Italians grabbed a consolation try through the No 8 Diego Scaglia, but there was no stopping Wales or Thomas and the Cardiff wing joined the immortals by gaining a fourth on the stroke of time to rank him alongside Willie Llewellyn, Reggie Gibbs, Maurice Richards, Ieuan Evans and Nigel Walker in the record books.

Italy: Tries Martin, Scaglia; Conversion Dominguez; Penalties Dominguez 3. Wales: Tries Thomas 4, C Quinnell, N Jenkins, Howley; Conversions N Jenkins 5; Penalties N Jenkins 5.

ITALY: J Pertile; F Roselli (both RDS Roma), C Stoica (Narbonne), L Martin (Begles-Bordeaux), D Dallan (Treviso); D Dominguez (Stade Francais, A Troncon (Treviso); M Cuttitta (Calvisano), A Moscardi, F Properzi, V Cristofoletto (all Treviso), M Giacheri (West Hartelpool), M Giovanelli (Narbonne, capt), A Sgorlon), D Scaglia (both Treviso). Replacements: M Baroni (Padova) for Stoica, 22; O Arancio (Treviso) for Cristofoletto, 50; A Castellani (RDS Roma) for Properzi, 55; S Saviozzi (Treviso) for Sgorlon, 70; Properzi for Castellani, 78;

WALES: S Howarth (Manchester Sale); G Thomas (Cardiff), M Taylor, S Gibbs (both Swansea), D James; N Jenkins (both Pontypridd), R Howley (Cardiff, capt); P Rogers (London Irish), G Jenkins, B Evans (both Swansea), C Quinnell (Richmond), C Wyatt (Llanelli), C Charvis (Swansea), B Sinkinson (Neath), S Quinnell (Llanelli). Replacements: D Morris (Swansea) for Rogers, 58; N Boobyer (Llanelli) for Taylor, 69; N Walne (Richmond) for James, 71; M Voyle (Llanelli) for C Quinnell, 71; D Llewellyn (Ebbw Vale) for Howley, 75; G Lewis (Pontypridd) for Charvis, 75; B Williams (Richmond) for G Jenkins, 78.

Referee: R Dickson (Scotland).

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