Wales. . 16
THE longer this grimly tedious contest ground to its predictable conclusion, the easier it became to understand why fewer than 2,000 spectators had turned up to watch it. On the evidence of this the World Cup, an enterprise grossing millions of pounds off the field is staring at bankruptcy on it. It was a game suffocated by the fear of defeat and trapped by the inability of the players to find the merest spark of inspiration to lift the tedium.
For Wales there was at least the satisfaction of reversing the melancholy sequence of defeats against the Romanians and the likelihood of ending up in a calmer pool in South Africa. But on this form it will not matter a jot which pool Wales are in and if either of yesterday's sides reach the knock-out stages, the world game is in a more parlous state than we imagined.
The game itself was remarkable for two things. The first was that it exploded conventional theory that the side who rule the line-out win the match. The Romanians so ruthlessly dismantled the opposition in this area - front, middle and rear - that the final count stood at more than
2-1 in their favour, although in mitigation it must be said that they had the major share of the throw-ins.
Had their ball retention and running behind the scrum been of the same standard then Wales would have been finished. But the rich seam of possession uncovered by the Romanian forwards was scattered to the winds by Neculai Nichitean, a fly-half without a trace of attacking instinct. It was happy for Wales that, in the searing 95F heat, they should be spared a running fly-half.
The Wales coach Alan Davies was angry that the game started in such searing heat. 'It's not good enough to make players play in these conditions,' he said. 'They are life threatening and it is unfair in a match of this importance.'
The only other noteworthy point, and it was a beacon in the gloom, was Ieuan Evans's 21st try for his country, which not only loosed the game from its shackles but broke the Welsh try-scoring record shared by two of the finest players the game has seen, Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies, who played in a different era and, it seems, in a different game.
As well as a shortage of possession Wales too were hampered by a fly-half who, like his opponent, is above all else a kicker. But he does kick his goals and once he had found his range he was successful with three penalties and the conversion of Evans's try which was, perhaps, the first 10-point try in international rugby.
Lewis, Collins and Moon all handled crisply before springing Evans down the right touchline. The winger beat off the frailest of challenges from Nicolae Fulina, running fully 60 yards to the line where, he was set upon with unnecessary savagery by Nicolae Racean.
The referee, who penalised the Romanians in much the same ratio as they won the line- outs, awarded the penalty to Wales on the halfway line after the conversion of the try and Jenkins kicked the goal.
Another lapse in Romanian concentration in a four-minute spell midway through the second half enabled Jenkins to kick two more penalties which took them into the comfort zone for the final quarter.
But they should never have been close to entering it. Romania squandered countless opportunities, particularly in the first half and on one occasion Evans was forced into frantic repair work behind his goal-line after Racean had cut through in midfield, and equally dangerous was the run, chip and chase by Gheorghe Solomie which had the Welsh at full stretch.
Clearly the Romanians had not come into the match with a side built for attack but merely to contain. When it became obvious that they could find no way through the Welsh defence, their only recourse was to go over it which they did with three penalties by Nichitean.
Romania: Penalties Nichitean 3. Wales: Try I Evans; Conversion N Jenkins; Penalties N Jenkins 3.
ROMANIA: B Brici; L Colceriu, N Racean, N Fulina, G Solomie; N Nichitean, D Neaga; G Leonte, G Ion, G Vlad, S Ciorascu, C Cojocariu, T Oroian, A Guranescu, T Brinza (capt). Replacement: C Draguceanu for Brinza (61 min); C Stan for Leonte (70 min).
WALES: M Rayer (Cardiff); I Evans (Llanelli, capt), M Hall (Cardiff), N Davies, W Proctor (both Llanelli); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Moon; R Evans (both Llanelli), G Jenkins (Swansea), J Davies (Neath), P Davies (Llanelli), G Llewellyn (Neath) H Taylor (Cardiff), R Collins (Pontypridd), E Lewis (Cardiff).
Referee: D McHugh (Ireland).
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content