Rugby Union: Wales build impressively on Paris success

Italy 21 Wales 60 Tries: Martin, Scaglia Tries: G Thomas 4, Howley, Cons: Dominguez Jenkins, C Quinnell Pens: Dominguez 3 Cons: Jenkins 5 Pens: Jenkins 5 Half-time: 16-18
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The Independent Online
THINGS ARE certainly getting better for Welsh rugby. The influence of Graham Henry is taking hold and for once the euphoria of beating one of the world's leading teams was not followed by a flop. In fact, this was a step up and forward from the victory over France in Paris two weeks ago. Seven tries, strong and determined defence, and at last a pattern of play that the players enjoy employing.

Of course, it could all go pear-shaped at Wembley on 11 April when England are the visitors. But that traditionally super-charged match now looks like being much more of a contest than it has been in recent years.

The England game will be the ultimate challenge, but whatever happens at least now Wales's Kiwi coach knows he has something on which to build for the World Cup in October. There is a new style and confidence in this Welsh side that showed glimpses of potential in Paris and came shining through in Treviso. They are now comfortable with the ball and far more aggressive in their approach.

The result of the team effort was there for all to see at Stade de France and yesterday there was an even more ruthless streak to Wales as they excited and entertained the 7,000 crowd. There were a record-equalling four tries for the Cardiff wing Gareth Thomas and a record-breaking 30 points for the rejuvenated Neil Jenkins.

Thomas, who missed the first two Five Nations matches this year after shoulder surgery, was worried he might not regain his place. A second- half substitute in Paris, he proved beyond all doubt he is the man for the job as he joined the elite of Welsh wings to have scored four tries in a match - Willie Llewellyn, Reggie Gibbs, Maurice Richards, Ieuan Evans and Nigel Walker.

As for Jenkins, he rocketed past 700 points for Wales and bettered his own national record of 24 points in a match with a try, five conversions and five penalties. In the process, he overtook Gavin Hastings (733) and moved into second place on the world all-time points scoring list with 745 (including 41 points for the Lions), trailing only Michael Lynagh (911).

Jenkins really came into his own in the second half with a strong wind at his back and in 30 breathtaking minutes Wales piled on 35 points without reply. That was too much for Italy to cope with and they ended the game looking like a rabble.

Wales started with a bang when Craig Quinnell crossed for his third try in as many games from a close-range line-out and Jenkins extended the lead with a penalty. It looked ominous even then for the Italians, seeking their first win over Wales in six games, yet midway through the first half they were ahead. A string of errors allowed Luca Martin to crash over for a close range try and Diego Dominguez added a conversion and two penalties to lift the home crowd.

But not for long. After Jenkins had kicked the second penalty, Thomas ran in his first try to restore the Welsh lead seven minutes before half- time. After that, Wales gorged themselves with five second-half tries. Italy could not live with it, but what about England? In three weeks' time this Welsh side will be put into perspective.

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), D Scaglia, A Sgorlon (both Treviso). Replacements: M Baroni (Padova) for Stoica, 22; O Arancio (Treviso) for Christofoletto, 49; A Castellani (RDS Roma) for Properzi, 55, Properzi for Castellani, 79; S Saviozzi (Treviso) for Sgorlon, 70.

Wales: S Howarth (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), S Quinnell (Llanelli), B Sinkinson (Neath). Replacements: M Voyle (Llanelli) for C Quinnell, 71; D Morris (Swansea) for Rogers, 58; N Boobyer (Llanelli) for Taylor, 69; N Walne (Richmond) for James, 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)