Welsh talisman's tearful exit

Peter Corrigan believes that the vanquished can be proud of their efforts
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DENIED a glorious climax to his international rugby league career, Jonathan Davies had to settle for a Welshman's consolation - a valiant effort followed by a bloody good weep. He then threatened to finish playing rugby altogether, but this performance did not carry the mark of a player about to volunteer for oblivion.

There was no denying the bravery with which Davies led Wales's considerable contribution to an excellent semi-final that should send England to Wembley this week with a brightly-burnished confidence that they can win this World Cup.

There were moments during the game when Wales seemed to be on the brink of wresting command but England had the ability, and once or twice the good fortune, to be able to reassert themselves. Near the end, when Wales flailed at the English line, the hopes of their fans rose noisily, but these were dragons debilitated by an English team that held the decisive edge in the departments that mattered, particularly in the deadliness with which they took their chances, most of most were orchestrated by Man of the Match Bobby Goulding.

Wales will have no fear of a blush when they look back on these proceedings, and neither will Davies be ashamed of a personal performance that blazed with his ambition to add to his illustrious accomplishments in the world of rugby. He shirked nothing and in the first half only one man on the field man more tackles than he did, and that was England's dreadnought prop Andy Platt. He was among the top six tacklers when the match ended, by which time he had given everything and did not have enough strength even to control his emotions.

After a few consoling embraces from his team-mates Davies slumped to his knees with his hands to his face. When Wales finally walked off to the sympathetic cheers of both sets of supporters he was still wiping dry his eyes with sleeve of the red shirt he will never wear again.

At least not this type of red shirt, because we don't know on what stage we will see him again. On the one that leaves Warrington for Cardiff, he hopes. The stalemate of those negotiations have not helped to settle his mind and were behind his muttered threats to call time on his career. "These last two weeks have been the most emotional of all my playing days," he said. "All I want now is to do what is best for my family." He will be deeply in the bosom of his family today and will perhaps feel better after belting out a few Welsh hymns at the christening of his daughter Geena at the Tabernacle, Cefneithin.

Whatever happens not the least of his accomplishments in his six years in rugby league has been to help with the resurrection of the Welsh team that has done so much to give this World Cup a touch of extra magic and drama. Perhaps the physical and mental strain of the defeat of Western Samoa at Swansea last Sunday had taken more from them than could be replenished in five days. Although they played well yesterday and often moved the ball attractively, there was less of the passion that had overcome the Samoans.

The battle of Britain, therefore, did not live up to its billing. There were heated moments - Paul Moriarty was sin-binned for throwing a punch into a private argument between Skerrett and Farrell - but tackling was never short of a meaning it was not reckless and the match was left memorable for the heavy bombers than for the spitfires, of whom Davies was just one. His highly talented team-mate Iestyn Harris was another as was Kevin Ellis. But England had the largest squadron, among whose number the name of Chris Radlinski can be counted. The Welsh cascaded high lobs around him all afternoon in the hope that the 19-year-old would get jittery. No such luck.

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