Grand Slam dreamers

Six Nations 2005: Ireland strike back to claim a record score at Murrayfield while sweet Williams fashions another win for Wales
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Typical - you wait an age for one Welsh back with unorthodox skill and outlandish hair and then two come along at once, and all of a sudden it isn't just the Irish who are talking about Triple Crowns, Grand Slams and other wonderful things.

Typical - you wait an age for one Welsh back with unorthodox skill and outlandish hair and then two come along at once, and all of a sudden it isn't just the Irish who are talking about Triple Crowns, Grand Slams and other wonderful things.

Last week, Gavin Henson's upstanding locks and silver boots kicked England where it hurts most - in the last few minutes - for a famous Cardiff win. This week Shane Williams, the diminutive wing whose blond-flecked mullet is, thankfully, balanced by a sublime repertoire of side-steps and slip-throughs - and white boots - showed and shimmied the Italians to distraction in Rome. Wales's Grand Slam dreams are growing by the day - as are Ireland's, after their 40-13 win over Scotland at Murrayfield - and Gareth Edwards' Engelbert Humperdinck sideburns suddenly seem rather passé.

Wales won 38-8, silencing both the home support and the rightly-vaunted Italian pack, to end the first slice of Six Nations play undefeated and prey to a surge of optimism back home. Getting carried away is virtually a national pastime in the principality, but until the trip to Paris in two weeks' time, what the hell.

Williams sliced through the Italian defence to set up the first Welsh try after four minutes of a frenetic match. Jonathan Thomas, the blindside flanker, scored that one after the requisite fancy-danning from Williams and his fellow three-quarters, and the lock Robert Sidoli provided a bookend try at the end thanks to more neat play from Williams and the replacement fly-half Ceri Sweeney. In between there were tries for Tom Shanklin, Martin Williams and Brent Cockbain. Just for good measure, Shane Williams scored one of his own.

Henson wore gold boots yesterday, having donated his famous silver pair to the Toby Lloyd Cockbain Foundation, the charity set up in memory of the lock's son. But he was still artfully teased and tousled and essayed the same combination of thumping tackles and finely-wrought kicks and darts. Unfortunately, one of his little chips rebounded off Luciano Orquera, who gathered the loose ball and sprinted to the corner. More unfortunately for Italy, the diminutive fly-half's jubilant dive was the high point of their afternoon.

At a boggy Murrayfield Ireland endured the massed pipers of the pre-match ceremonies and the slightly less taxing cacophony of a ferocious opening from the Scots to post a record win.

The Irish fell behind to a fantastic try from Hugo Southwell. But the locks Malcolm O'Kelly and Paul O'Connell scored first-half tries through sapping efforts from the forwards and Denis Hickie, John Hayes and Gavin Duffy scored in the second period. Ronan O'Gara did the rest, though Jon Petrie scored a second try for Scotland.

A slightly misfiring side enduring a spirited effort early on and then, despite their own problems, ruthlessly knocking their opponents out of the match to take another step towards the Championship title. Sound familiar? England used to do that, and look where it got them.

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