Rugby Union: Wales reign over Spain

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The Independent Online
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THERE was never much doubt about it but, after their workmanlike win in Madrid yesterday, Wales are on their way to the World Cup in South Africa. All that needs to be settled is which pool they join and that will be resolved when they play Italy, who beat the Netherlands 63-9 yesterday, and Romania in the autumn. They must win both matches in order to get into the New Zealand/Ireland pool, which offers them their best chance to proceed.

That fateful Welsh defeat by Western Samoa in the pool game in 1991, which looks less damaging and hurtful after the Samoans recent win over Auckland in the southern hemisphere Super Ten tournament, was the reason for this peninsula campaign. It has turned out to be less of a penance than a pleasurable holiday, interrupted by one session of virtually unopposed rugby against Portugal last Tuesday, but by a much harder proposition against the hard-tackling Spaniards.

Wales's itinerary this year comprises 13 internationals of which four are supposed friendlies next month. The only real friendly is against Tonga, which follows two hard games against Canada and Fiji and precedes a difficult meeting with Western Samoa. They are then home to Italy and Romania in September and October and South Africa in November followed by the Five Nations matches next season.

After an incident-packed start, when the referee sent off a player because his studs were too long and some brave Spanish assaults, the Spaniards showed that they were made of sterner stuff than the Portuguese by putting in fine tackles to stop Scott Quinnell, Tony Clement, Neil Jenkins and Nigel Davies in their tracks. Wales managed only two penalty goals by Neil Jenkins before they began to prise open a grim Spanish defence when Scott Quinnell scored from the back of a scrum, to put Wales into an 11-point lead. At the same stage on Tuesday, in the then record victory for an international fixture, they had scored 36 points.

A well-taken try by Ieuan Evans, when he caught a kick on the volley, made it a mere 16- 0 at half-time, which was entirely due to a tremendously committed defence by the Spanish who succeeded in closing up the midfield. Spain then lost three props in eight minutes and Wales took advantage at the next scrum and were awarded a penalty try, which Jenkins converted.

Spain still refused to crack but in the end they tired and two more tries by Ieuan Evans, who must now be the first Welshman to score two hat- tricks for his country in a week, and a try each by Nigel Walker and Garin Jenkins, took Wales to respectability. Spain have more than a rudimentary knowledge of the game and one day they will be a useful side.

Wales: Tries I Evans 3, G Jenkins, penalty, Quinnell, Walker; Conversions N Jenkins 5; Penalties N Jenkins 3.

SPAIN: J Azkargorta; P Martin, A Enciso, A Mino, J Torres Morote; F Puertas, J Hdez-Gil; J Alvarez, J Aguiar, J Diez, A Malo, J M Villau, J Etzeberria, J Gutierrez (capt), J Lopez.

WALES: A Clement (Swansea); I Evans (Llanelli, capt), M Hall (Cardiff), N Davies (Llanelli), N Walker (Cardiff); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Moon (Llanelli); R Evans (Llanelli), G Jenkins (Swansea), J Davies (Neath), G Llewellyn (Neath), P Arnold (Swansea), E Lewis (Llanelli), M Perego (Llanelli), S Quinnell (Llanelli). Replacement: A Copsey (Llanelli), for E Lewis, h/t.

Referee: D Bishop (New Zealand).