No identity crisis as Williams and Jones say it all for Wales

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The Independent Online

I was beginning to think that the only thing Wales were good at these days was slagging each other off, so it was a massive relief to see that we can still play enough decent rugby to win a match.

Nothing short of victory was going to blow a hole in the dark clouds that have hung over Welsh rugby since England smashed us two weeks ago, so it was going to be a relief whatever shape it came in.

But although the win didn't have much quality about it there was no doubt that it was well merited, and no one deserved to see it more than the Welsh management team.

Everyone has been shattered by the ineligibility row coming on top of our other problems, but it was so unfair that Graham Henry and Steve Black should have shouldered most of the stick. Perhaps the knives will be put away now, because no one should underestimate what the Welsh had to come through in order to put together a performance that was not only fit to dispel the gloom but actually to bring the odd ray of sunshine to the Millennium Stadium.

There was much about the match that was made frantic by the pressures that both sides were under, but nobody could point a finger at Welsh fitness or complain about theirorganisation and resilience in defence. Once again, the scrum was extremely strong and able to put the Scots under pressure, and what sparks there were came from the Welsh.

Let's not hide the fact that both sides will have to improve on this showing before they tackle the final games of the Six Nations, but Scotland have by far the more serious problems.

This is a very poor Scottish side and coach Ian McGeechan will be bitterly disappointed at the amount of possession and territory they dominated without getting anything like an adequate points reward. Much of the credit for that goes to the Welsh defence, but their English counterparts are going to be even more impenetrable.

The main difference yesterday was that when Wales created something they looked capable of getting points on the board. It helps to have someone of Shane Williams' pace to apply the finishing touch and a player of Allan Bateman's guile and experience to supply the essential guidance.

It is always a risk to expose a new half-back partnership to Six Nations action, but Henry's faith in veteran Rupert Moon at scrum-half and his Llanelli partner Stephen Jones at stand-off was a success. They had to steady the ship so that it could survive those stormy seas out there and they performed that duty admirably.

Jones deserved his Man of the Match award for a good all-round game. His kicking out of hand was excellent and his goal-kicking was as vital as we all knew it had to be. Stepping into Neil Jenkins' kicking boots in a match of that importance was an ordeal no one in the world would have envied and he did it remarkably well.

I was worried for Wales at the outset because the young Scottish full-back Chris Pater-son had a bright start and he and Gregor Townsend look capable of lighting a few fires, but they were gradually bogged down in the Scottish porridge.

Wales often looked no better in the first half, when it seemed impossible to set a pattern because of so much disjointed play, typified by some hopeless line-out work by both sides. Nothing was able to flow and it was great relief for Wales when Bateman split the defence with a clever grubber that Williams turned into a try with the sheer pace and optimism of his run and kick-ahead.

Scotland threatened to dominate again in the second half but what they didn't ruin with their own errors was soaked up by the Welsh defence. Again Wales were able to cut through the confusion with a rare attack of blistering speed that gave Williams his second try.

The Irish are going to be far more of a problem in Dublin in two weeks, but the scraps of confidence that Wales managed to recover yesterday might help them to face what is likely to be a big test.

What is going to help Scotland, I cannot predict. They have dug deep before and have produced the power to repulse their old rivals. But England won yesterday without playing all that well. They are going to be a difficult invader to turn back this time.

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