Stale Wales fail to deliver

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The Independent Online
Wales 34

US Eagles 14

WALES entered this game intent on generating a surge of points- scoring confidence in readiness for the start of the Five Nations this week but emerged with little more than an understanding of how frustrated the Mexicans must have felt at the Alamo.

The expected massacre slowly dissolved in the Arms Park mist as the Americans offered grit, defiance and the temerity to score the best try of the match. It was only in the last 15 minutes that Wales engineered the two tries that bulked up the margin of victory to a respectable level. But even the Welsh team had to admit that they fell short of the target of superiority they set themselves. For all their heroism, the US were not entirely responsible for the shortfall. The Welsh bungled so many chances to avoid a great deal of selectorial and tactical discussion before Saturday's visit to Murrayfield.

The temporary captain Scott Gibbs weighed in with a huge appetite for action that made him one of the few comfortable Welsh sights but Scott Quinnell was denied a triumphant return to the ranks - indeed, his brother Craig looked more like putting the name of Quinnell on the scoresheet, and he was only on for 10 minutes.

It took 25 minutes before Ieuan Evans achieved the first penetration of the Americans' resistance with a try in the corner. Up until then Arwel Thomas and Matt Alexander had exchanged penalties as Wales grappled for the upper hand. There was little alien about the occasion for the US team. With a crowd of 13,500, the stadium echoed like the Grand Canyon and since this was their third game here in seven days the place had a homely feeling for them. As for the team opposite they were not clad in Dragon Red but in the change strip designed by their sponsors, the predominant colour of which is described as stone but was more like a sickly Aberystwyth beige.

It was all unfamiliar but not the sight of Wales struggling to find the rhythm we all know is in there. Once they had scored their first try, converted from the touchline by Arwel Thomas, Wales began to look more assured and when Gibbs scored on the half hour they seemed set to take over. The captain picked up a poor pass from Arwel Thomas and sliced 25 yards through a gap to touch down. But two Alexander penalties pegged them back to 17-9 at half-time and thereafter it was a struggle.

Howley made a superb break down the left touchline to set up Quinnell with a clear patch of turf ahead of him but, with Gareth Thomas racing up on his left, he allowed himself to get caught and it turned out to be the story of his game. It was the Americans who struck first in the second half with a blistering move down the left in which Hightower sent away Scharrenburg who in turn set up the scrum-half Andre Bachelet for a 20-yard run for the line.

After ruining at least two solid chances Wales finally scored a try, again through Ieuan Evans after a Gareth Thomas break and the US pack finally cracked to concede a penalty try as Wales tried to steamroller them over.

Wales: J Thomas (Cardiff); I Evans (Llanelli), A Bateman (Richmond), S Gibbs (Swansea, capt), G Thomas (Bridgend); A Thomas (Swansea), R Howley (Cardiff); C Loader (Swansea), G Jenkins (Swansea), D Young (Cardiff), G Llewellyn (Harlequins), M Rowley (Pontypridd), S Williams (Neath), S Quinnell (Richmond), C Charvis (Swansea). Replacements:J Davies (Cardiff) for Gibbs, 65-69, C Quinnell (Richmond) for Rowley, 70, G Jones (Cardiff) for Charvis, 73, P John (Pontypridd) for Howley, 76.

US Eagles: M Williams (Aspen); V Anitoni (Yankees), R Tardits (Life College), M Scharrenberg (Reading), B Hightower (Aspen); M Alexander (Denver), A Bachelet (Reading); Lehner (Blackheath), T Billups (Blackheath), B LeClerc (Aspen), C Vogl (Bridgend), A Parker (Aspen), D Lyle (Bath Capt), R Lumkong (Pontypridd), J Wilkerson (Belmont). Replacements: C Morrow (Aspen) for Williams, 54, J Walker (Aspen) for Wilkerson 73.

Referee: Leo Mayne (Ireland).

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