Rugby Union: Wales A 32 England A 25 - Thomas seals Grand Slam

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The Independent Online
ARWEL THOMAS set Wales celebrating with a marvellously composed performance, in a fiercely competitive A international at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, last night. The Swansea outside-half kicked Wales to victory with 22 points to add to the 55 he scored in the first three rounds of the Junior Five Nations' competition. So it is a Grand Slam for Wales, after a match packed with drama, in which England, unbeaten themselves, almost snatched victory in injury time.

Had Peter Mensah not been hauled down inches short of the Wales' line by full-back Kevin Morgan, it would have left Alex King with a very difficult conversion from the right touchline to earn a draw. But just as it had throughout, except when Mensah claimed England's only try, the Wales' defence just held on.

While England will feel disappointed that they came so close, their finishing let them down. They also gave the deadly Thomas far too many opportunities to kick for goal; and Thomas never looked like missing as he converted both tries and banged over six penalties.

Wales had the better of a cracking first half, though it seemed as if England would at least reach the break within a single score of the home side. But two penalty goals by Thomas took Wales to 23-16, after Mark Mapletoft had closed the gap to a point with his third penalty, within a minute of Martyn Williams thundering across for Wales' second try. Matthew Robinson had given Wales just the start thy would have wished for with a beautifully executed try, which Thomas initiated.

King soon made his mark after the break, when he replaced Mapletoft, by kicking a long-range penalty. Before slotting two more, Thomas banged over his fourth penalty, but England were back in it at 26-25 and dominating territory if not possession.

But the Welsh would not budge and the redoubtable Thomas took them further ahead with two more penalties.

Wales A: Tries Williams, Robinson; Conversions Thomas 2; Penalties Thomas 6. England A: Try Mensah; Conversion Mapletoft; Penalties Mapletoft 3, King 3.

WALES A: K Morgan (Pontypridd); M Robinson (Swansea), J Lewis (Pontypridd), L Davies (Cardiff), R Rees; A Thomas (both Swansea), P John (Pontypridd, capt); D Morris (Swansea), R McBryde (Llanelli), C Anthony (Swansea), I Gough (Pontypridd), A Moore (Swansea), G Lewis, M Williams (both Pontypridd), R Arnold (Newcastle) Replacements: R Jones (Swansea) for John, 49; A Griffiths (Pontypridd) for Morris, 57; C Billen (Ebbw Vale) for Gough 70.

ENGLAND A: C Catling Gloucester); J Williams (Harlequins), F Waters (Wasps), P Mensah (Harlequins), S Brown (Richmond); M Mapletoft, S Benton; T Woodman (all Gloucester), M Regan (Bath), D Crompton (Richmond), R Fidler, M Cornell, S Ojomoh (All Gloucester), R Pool-Jones (Stade Francais), A Diprose (Saracens, capt) Replacements: A King (Wasps) for Mapletoft, 42; W Green (Wasps) for Woodman, 53; S Shaw (Wasps) for Cornwell, 53; P Volley (Wasps) for Pool-Jones, 65

Referee: I Ramage (Scotland).

n Inspired by their stand-off and captain, Stephen Jones, Wales coasted to an Under-21 Grand Slam with an emphatic 36-21 victory over England at Neath yesterday. Jones scored 21 of Wales' points.