Rugby Union: Wales take the high ground: Jenkins finds the target to sweep past points record

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Wales. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29

Italy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19

Uncomfortable as it may have been, Wales qualified for the World Cup group they wanted with a victory that will take them to the high veldt of South Africa with New Zealand, Ireland, and probably Japan.

The Irish management were present last night and would not have been unduly concerned. If anything, England's, who were also here, would very likely be more worried about the Italians, who after losing will play at sea level with Western Samoa and Argentina as well.

Neil Jenkins contributed 24 of the points to equal his own scoring record in a match for Wales, his more accurate kicking than that of Diego Dominguez proving decisive besides taking him past Paul Thorburn's Welsh record of 304 points.

The disappointment bordering on humiliation of a number of home Welsh defeats against supposedly inferior nations would have given them cause for concern even if Italy had not lately emerged as the fastest-improving force in world rugby.

If they can hold Australia to three points - and even by most reckonings deserve to win - in Brisbane, then there seemed no good reason for even better in Cardiff and, once Wales had taken an early lead with Jenkins's first penalty from 50 yards, the game swung their way.

Dominguez, as fine a kicker of a rugby ball as there is, launched an up-and-under which Mike Rayer was so unable to deal with that the ball bounced straight to Andrea Sgorlon and was put through Alessandro Troncon to Ivan Francescato, whose try was converted by Dominguez.

On the last occasion that the Italians had visited the ground, in a non-cap match two years ago, their hosts exceeded 40 points, and at the time such a score was merely average against such opposition.

Last night, though, in front of a modest Arms Park crowd of 30,000, Wales were grateful for even smaller mercies and, after the shock of the Italian try, they steadily pulled themselves together.

There was nothing especially spectacular about it. Wales did try to move the ball, Hemi Taylor leading a couple of vigorous charges, but the impressive Italian defence held firm, outside the laws when necessary, and when the Welsh regained the lead it was through two further Jenkins penalties.

It was Wales's good fortune that Dominguez, who equalled a world record when he landed eight penalties in the previous World Cup match against Romania, failed with two for Italy.

In between his misses, the former Argentinian put one over, but Wales were ahead again by half-time - and relieved to be so - after Jenkins dropped a goal and added his fourth penalty.

Wales put the travails of the first half behind them almost as soon as the second had begun with a glorious try by Nigel Davies, as good in its collective way as the individual effort with which the now-injured captain, Ieuan Evans, had beaten Romania last month.

Emyr Lewis thrust himself forward on one side of the field and by the time it reached Davies on the other side, it had gone in sweet succession through Jenkins, Hall, Rayer and Proctor.

Jenkins missed the conversion, but the Welsh lead had suddenly grown to 10 points and, after Jenkins and Dominguez had each kicked another three penalties, that was how it ended.

Wales: Try N Davies; Penalties Jenkins 7; Drop goal Jenkins. Italy: Try Francescato; Conversion Dominguez; Penalties Dominguez 4.

WALES: M Rayer (Cardiff); W Proctor (Llanelli), M Hall (Cardiff), N Davies (Llanelli), A Clement (Swansea); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Moon; R Evans (Llanelli), G Jenkins (Swansea), J Davies (Neath), P Davies (Llanelli), G Llewellyn (Neath, capt), H Taylor, E Lewis (Cardiff), R Collins (Pontypridd). Temporary replacement: (Llanelli) for J Davies, 37-39.

ITALY: P Vaccari (Milan); M Gerosa (Piacenza), S Bordon (Rovigo), M Bonomi (Milan), I Francescato (Treviso); D Dominguez (Treviso); M Cuttitta (Milan, capt), C Orlandi (Piacenza), G Grespan, R Favaro (Treviso), D Scaglia (Tarvisium), O Arancio (Catania), C Checchinato (Rovigo), A Sgorlon (San Dona). Replacement: M Dal-Sie (San Dona) for Grespan, 66.

Referee: K McCartney (Scotland).

JEREMY GUSCOTT, the England and Lions centre who has been plagued by a persistent groin injury, returns to rugby on Saturday a year and a fortnight after his last Courage Clubs' Championship match for Bath when he goes straight into the first team for the vist to West Hartlepool.

(Photograph omitted)

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