Rugby Union: Thomas runs wild for Wales

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The Independent Online
Wales 70

Romania 21

At a time of year when, not so long ago, rugby players would have been thinking of putting the first dubbin on their boots and wondering if, instead of taking the car, they, ought, as light training, to walk to the station in the morning, Wales found themselves at The Racecourse ground playing the first international of a heavy season. And that after a hard summer, which explained the absence of five of their Lions - the two Scotts, Gibbs and Quinnell, Robert Howley, Ieuan Evans and Neil Jenkins. It was like starting with a 20-point handicap.

As a result they fielded a mainly Wales-based team against Romania rather than one from the four corners of England, and some of the younger players included could well figure in plans for the 1999 World Cup. Among those emerging talents were the 20-year-old full-back Kevin Morgan, sharp as a needle and a lot more subtle, and the tireless Paul John at scrum-half, who both scored tries, while at outside-half Arwel Thomas looked just as exciting in his second spell in the Wales jersey.

Thomas's ability to pace his effort makes him an even more balanced player than before. He scored two tries, as did Leigh Davies and Allan Bateman, in Wales's total of 11 tries - a Welsh home record, as it was for points scored. And if Thomas has not the deadliness of Neil Jenkins, he kicked a respectable 13 points, which adds to the Welsh selectors' options.

Wales A had already beaten this Romanian squad 36-21 in midweek. It would not have been sufficient simply to extend that score - the manner of victory was also important. Except for a lull in the second half, they played with a fluency which suggests a growing confidence.

Wales immediately looked the sharper side, running the ball as soon as it touched their hands and putting themselves 12 points ahead after eight minutes. First it was John romping away with a quickly taken penalty, from which Leigh Davies crossed for a try. Arwel Thomas missed the conversion but minutes later, when Wayne Proctor was caught in the tackle, Thomas appeared outside the wing to score in the corner. Thomas converted his own try from the touchline.

Wales were 27-6 up with a quarter of the game gone, after further tries from the hooker Barry Williams and Bateman, and a Thomas conversion and penalty goal. Romania made do with penalty goals by Serban Guranescu, and although they put in some clobbering tackles, Wales seemed able to continue scoring for as long as their energy levels held up in a fast- paced match.

Perhaps the game's best try was scored six minutes later as John sped towards the corner then seamlessly released the ball inside to his Pontypridd team-mate Morgan, who gave point to the scissors with an unhampered try to the posts. Thomas scored a second try with a romp down the left touchline. It was pure sevens rugby, to which the big Romanians had little to contribute beyond laying down their bodies as Wales went to the break leading 39- 6.

The pace slackened in the second half. Although Leigh Davies and Bateman both scored their second tries in the third quarter, they allowed Ionel Rotaru, on the Romania left wing, to score from a tap-penalty and Catalin Draguceanu also to cross. Those tries, along with a third penalty goal and conversion from Guranescu, gave Romania a face-saving score of points.

Yet it was not the old Welsh failing of second-half complacency. They never lost control, and in the remaining 11 minutes added three more tries from replacements Steve Williams and Nigel Walker and Paul John, with a conversion by Thomas and another by his replacement in the game of musical chairs, Lee Jarvis. It had been an entertaining afternoon.

Wales: K Morgan (Pontypridd); W Proctor (Llanelli), A Bateman (Richmond), L Davies (Cardiff), G Thomas (Bridgend); A Thomas (Swansea), P John (Pontypridd); C Loader (Swansea), B Williams (Richmond), D Young (Cardiff), S Moore (Moseley), M Rowley (Pontypridd), R Appleyard (Swansea), G Jones (Cardiff, capt), N Thomas (Bath). Replacements: L Mustoe (Cardiff) for Young, 40; N Walker (Cardiff) for Proctor, 64; S Williams (Cardiff) for Rowley, 67;L Jarvis (Cardiff) for Thomas, 78.

Romania: V Maftei (Cluj Univ); L Colceriu (Steaua Bucharest), R Gontineac (Pau),G Solomie (Timisoara Univ), I Rotaru (Dinamo Bucharest); S Guranescu (Dinamo), M Iacob (Dinamo); G Vlad (Narbonne), M Radoi (Dinamo), A Salageanu (Dinamo), T Branza (Narbonne, capt), V Nedelcu (Dinamo), F Corodeanu (Steaua), E Septar (Ferul Constanta), C Draguceanu (Steaua). Replacements: C Stan (Dinamo) for Salageanu, 45; P Mitu (Steaua) for Maftei, 45.

Referee: I Ramage (Scotland).

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