Hansen sees the grim reality under veneer of Welsh revival

Wales 40 Romania 3

By Robert Cole
Saturday 02 November 2002 01:00
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As an exercise in spreading the gospel of rugby union in the football-saturated northern parts of Wales, this match was about as much use as windscreen wipers on a submarine. It was supposed to be a warm-up for the bigger games to come over the next few weeks, against Fiji, Canada and the All Blacks. Instead, last night turned into an evening of frustration for everyone that will send the Wales coach Steve Hansen scurrying back to the drawing board.

The most exciting moment of the first 60 minutes came during the half-time interval when 1,000 mini rugby balls were thrown into the crowd. Some of the handling of the fans proved to be infinitely better than that of many of the players in the first half.

If it was bad enough for the 9,448-strong crowd at the Racecourse Ground, then it must have been even worse for Hansen and his fellow coaches. The bookies had this marked down as another away day massacre for Romania, but their plucky defence and the Welsh woes saved them from that.

So much for a brave new Wales. The day after announcing a fire and brimstone-breathing group chief executive, the national side simply ran out of steam and ideas.

After talk of returning to the top five teams in the world as the game's new head honcho, David Moffett, was introduced in Cardiff, the reality of a current eighth place ranking was rammed home. There was no settled platform up front, little creativity outside of the occasional burst by Tom Shanklin and a general lack of urgency. It was not was expected, not good enough and does not bode well for the next three weeks.

If the Romanian outside-half Ionut Tofan had not missed with three kicks at goal in the first half, the visitors could have been on level terms for much of that period. He finally found his range just after the break, but soon after Wales finally got into try-scoring mode. The game had been crying out for one and it came through the familiar frame of Scott Quinnell. Sonny Parker, the new centre, made the running before the No 8 picked up a drove the final few metres to the line.

To their credit, the Romanians, who shipped 151 points on their last two visits to Wales, did not flinch. When they were supposed to drop their guard, they redoubled their efforts and stopped Wales from capitalising on their momentum.

Three more tries did flow in the final quarter, but it was still far from convincing. Gareth Thomas showed off his pace, power and handling skills to release Mark Jones for the first. Then Thomas grabbed one himself before the French referee Joel Jutge awarded a penalty try at the death. Jenkins popped over the conversion to take his tally to 20 points.

Wales: Tries Quinnell, M Jones, Gareth Thomas, penalty try; Penalties N Jenkins 4; Conversions N Jenkins 4. Romania: Penalty Tofan.

WALES: R Williams (Cardiff); M Jones (Llanelli), T Shanklin (Saracens), S Parker (Pontypridd), Gareth Thomas (Bridgend); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), D Peel (Llanelli); G Jenkins (Pontypridd), M Davies (Pontypridd), M Madden (Llanelli), R Sidoli (Pontypridd), S Williams (Northampton), M Owen (Pontypridd), C Charvis (Swansea, capt), S Quinnell (Llanelli). Replacements: C Morgan (Cardiff) for R Williams, 43; B Evans (Swansea) for Madden, 50; Gavin Thomas (Bath) for Quinnell, 66; A Lewis (Cardiff) for Davies, 66; S Jones (Llanelli) for Shanklin, 75; G Llewellyn (Neath) for S Williams, 77.

ROMANIA: D Dumbrava; V Ghioc, G Brezoianu, R Gontineac, M Picoiu; I Tofan, P Mitu; P Toderasc, R Mavrodin, S Florea, S Socol, C Petre, F Corodeanu, A Petrache, O Tonita. Replacements: G Chiriac for O Tonita, 16; M Coltuneac for G Brezoianu, 41; D Dima for Florea, 41; M Constantin for Mavrodin, 47; C Podea for P Mitu, 70; M Socaciu for Toderasc, 69; R Lungu for Picoiu, 78.

Referee: J Jutge (France).

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