Rugby Union: Wembley's parade of Celtic pride

Wales 19 Scotland 13

THE CYNICS came in their hundreds to bury the Five Nations' Championship rather than praise it, but they ended an enthralling day of international rugby seeking a way out of the hole they had dug for themselves. A shovel- load of humble pie for dinner, sir? How about a spadeful of your own juicy words for supper? Jim Telfer will never threaten Mark Antony as an orator - to be sure, he would look fairly daft in a tartan toga - but Scotland's coach hit the nail squarely on the head by pronouncing: "The only thing that needs burying right now is all this guff about the end of Celtic rugby."

Having watched Irish hearts beat green and proud in Paris in the early afternoon, the prophets of pessimism were then confronted with the baffling spectacle of Gregor Townsend, Rob Wainwright, Arwel Thomas and, most imaginatively of all, Allan Bateman pushing back the frontiers of a sport that had supposedly left them stationary in its slipstream. Wales and Scotland did not produce a classic at Wembley on Saturday and the southern superpowers will not be heading for the meths bottle in a state of collective depression, but there was more than enough sparkle to force rugby's grim reaper into a U-turn.

"I'm getting bored with this "death of the Five Nations' theory," Telfer said. "For some reason, everyone is talking up England and France as though they are super-teams and whenever I've been interviewed over the last fortnight, I've been fed this line about a gulf between us and them. Why don't people just look at the rugby we've just played? The only great truth about rugby that emerged from this game is that you only win matches if you take your chances. We created six clear-cut opportunities and chucked four of them away."

Actually, Telfer might have coined a second rugby maxim as a result of his side's narrow and in many ways unfortunate defeat: namely, that a side is only as good as its last injury. Both Wales and Scotland suffered early casualties and while the Scots never fully came to terms with the loss of their full-back, Derrick Lee, 11 minutes before the break, the Welsh were positively transformed by the deep cut to the eyebrow suffered by Neil Jenkins at the end of the opening quarter. Indeed, the only mistake Lee made during his otherwise electric contribution was to put Jenkins off the field with a sharp but perfectly legal hand-off.

While Lee's replacement, Rowen Shepherd, made enough public cock-ups to earn himself a seat in the next Tory cabinet - "Rowen tried to run the ball from some impossible positions when he should have been using that big right boot of his," muttered Telfer - the unexpected introduction of Thomas in Jenkins' stead increased Wales' attacking options by something close to 100 per cent. "We were prepared for Jenkins, but Arwel is a very different player," acknowledged the rival coach.

Thomas probed and prodded and mixed up his game far more effectively than against England a fortnight earlier. His instinctive understanding of how to maximise an overlap produced Wayne Proctor's game-turning try three minutes into the second half and his sleight of hand allowed Scott Gibbs and, in particular, Bateman to carry the game to the Scottish midfield.

There are risks and hazards with Thomas, of course; as Barry John, his greatest forerunner in the Welsh No 10 shirt, pointed out: "There is always a try on when he gets the ball, but you're never completely sure which side will score it." For all that, his brazen cheek warms the spirit. Wales should stick by him, for he will win them more games than he loses.

Just as Scotland should stand by Townsend through thick and thin. The Northampton centre has been booed and barracked to high heaven by a peculiarly vindictive Franklins Gardens crowd this season, but for half an hour on Saturday he bordered on the sublime. "In a sense, the problem with Gregor is not Gregor's problem at all," said Ian McGeechan, his club coach and international advisor, recently. "His thought processes tend to be half a yard in front of everyone else's and if they're not on their toes, his best ideas can backfire."

Reassured by the sharp intelligence of Lee, Alan Tait and the new left wing, Shaun Longstaff, Townsend dipped deep into his bag of tricks from the first whistle and very nearly put Scotland out of sight. Three visionary touches in the opening gambit of the game resulted in a sixth-minute candidate for try of the championship and the Wembley air was pregnant with possibility every time he had the ball.

Wales were simply not at the races as Damian Cronin claimed a second Scottish try from close range on 34 minutes; Wainwright, lean and hungry after a season of Townsend-scale criticism, was ruling the roost in the loose exchanges and his back-row colleagues, Eric Peters and Adam Roxburgh, were scarcely less effective. It took two Thomas penalties amid the dying embers of the first half to keep the "home" side within arm's length of their opponents.

But then the Scottish mistakes started creeping in. One suicidal Shepherd pass gave Wales the field position for Proctor's galvanising score in the right corner and the Melrose full-back compounded the error by ignoring Roxburgh on his left shoulder and kicking away a third try that was there for the taking. Townsend would do something similar a short while later and when Joel Dume, the French referee, threw the advantage law out of the nearest window and denied Wainwright a certain score, the die was cast.

"It was either Rob's try or a penalty try," said Arthur Hastie, the Scottish manager, who was hardly alone in wondering why Dume whistled for Gareth Thomas' desperate obstruction on Craig Chalmers just as Wainwright was purring unchallenged towards the line. The irony that followed four minutes from the end was almost too bitter to bear; Chalmers fell offside as the impressive Colin Charvis drove one last time into the Scottish underbelly and Arwel Thomas made no mistake from 30 metres.

"It was backs against the wall time for us and that probably explains why it wasn't pretty," said Rob Howley, a profoundly relieved Welsh captain. It may not have been drop-dead beautiful, but after the humiliation of Twickenham, it was very definitely more Claudia Schiffer than Thora Hird. The Welsh are happy, the Scots are encouraged and the Five Nations is back in credit.

Wales: Try: Proctor. Conversion A Thomas; Penalties A Thomas 3, Jenkins. Scotland: Tries Townsend, Cronin. Penalty Chalmers.

WALES: K Morgan (Pontypridd); W Proctor (Llanelli), A Bateman (Richmond), S Gibbs (Swansea), G Thomas (Cardiff); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Howley (Cardiff, capt); A Lewis (Cardiff), G Jenkins (Swansea), D Young (Cardiff), M Voyle (Llanelli), A Moore (Swansea), R Appleyard (Swansea), C Charvis (Swansea), K Jones (Ebbw Vale). Replacements: A Thomas (Swansea) for N Jenkins, 18; S Quinnell (Richmond) for Appleyard, 59; J Humphreys (Cardiff) for G Jenkins, 69.

SCOTLAND: D Lee (London Scottish); A Stanger (Hawick), A Tait (Newcastle), G Townsend (Northampton), S Longstaff (Dundee HSFP); C Chalmers (Melrose), G Armstrong (Newcastle, capt); D Hilton (Bath), G Bulloch (West of Scotland), M Stewart (Northampton), D Cronin (Wasps), G Weir (Newcastle), R Wainwright (Dundee HSFP), E Peters (Bath), A Roxburgh (Kelso).Replacements: R Shepherd (Melrose) for Lee, 29; S Grimes (Watsonians) for Cronin, 51; G Graham (Newcastle) for Stewart, 66.

Referee: J Dume (France).

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
News
i100
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little