Trier Howley shows the art of a Lion

David Llewellyn contrasts the form and fortunes of the rival scrum- halves; Five Nations: Broken arm threatens Jenkins' hopes of a summer in the sun but his compatriot strengthens claim
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The Independent Online
More than hearts were broken at the Arms Park. Neil Jenkins had been a certainty for the British Lions tour of South Africa this summer until a quarter of an hour had passed in the final game on Welsh rugby's holy of holies.

By then Jenkins had missed a couple of penalties, not that anyone was worrying, they had been sighters and there was plenty of time for his howitzer of a right foot to pile on the points for Wales. Unfortunately he never had a further chance. In the 15th minute he had to be led from an enthralling match with a badly broken arm, which is likely to need a plate inserted and will therefore almost certainly rule him out of the Lions trip. Welsh gloom was completed by a rout, with England, as usual, saving their best until later, after they had worn down a courageous Wales pack.

And in the midst of a famous tussle was another match of two halves. For Wales the all-round ability and indeed brilliance of Rob Howley, a purring Rolls-Royce of a scrum-half; for England the bristling hyper- confidence of the speedy Austin Healey. Howley had the last word, with a well-taken try, but to Healey went the satisfaction of a job well done.

He had proved to the doubters that he possesses the ability not only to survive at the highest level of the game, but also to influence the game from one of its pivotal positions. "I had gone into the game slightly apprehensive about certain aspects of my game," admitted Healey afterwards. "It was mainly my kicking. I was a bit concerned that some of my box kicks were not spot on. But fortunately during the game the things that I was concerned about went well, while the things I wasn't concerned about, such as cover defence, didn't - I let Rob Howley in at the end.

"As far as the box-kicking goes, the game was so open and free-flowing it would have been a waste of time and would have meant giving away possession. Our forwards were winning some great ruck ball and that enabled us to take them on around the fringes. If we had been doing box kicks all through the match we wouldn't have been able to achieve the final score that we did.

"Anyway, I hope I have gone some way to answering the doubters. My passing was spot-on, what kicking I did was spot-on and I just used other aspects of my game to support the lads. There were a couple of supporting runs I made in which I felt I was unlucky not to get in for a try in the first few minutes of the match."

Healey's view of his opposite number was engagingly frank. "I think Rob played very well. Obviously his pack was going backwards, but he made good use of some poor ball. He's a very good player. He made a few more mistakes than I anticipated him making, but he was just having to kick- start his team and he was also under a hell of a lot of pressure. He came round the fringes a few times straight into me and I just knocked him back."

Healey may be a half-pint in build but under the bonnet he has the power of the three-litre Mark II sports car whose name he bears and whenever he burned rubber Welsh players and fans alike held their breath. Howley's mastery throughout lay in his decision-making and in particular the speed and accuracy of his recycling of possession.

But Howley is no slouch in the speed stakes either, although modesty, rather than lack of confidence, prevents him from letting loose a blast on his trumpet.

As it is to Healey, a half-chance to mere mortal scrum-halves is a gaping hole to the Cardiff No 9 and one telling break fired the Dragons as the first half drew to a close. Twice he did the cover, sneaking and snaking his way towards the line. The concerted pressure which resulted from his efforts saw Jonathan Davies finally able to punish England for persistent offside and, importantly, keep Wales in touch with their opponents at that stage.

And then at the end he showed England a clean pair of heels. But Healey had an edge with the personnel waiting outside him. If the Lions don't want Healey, England certainly can use him.

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