Wales warm up in style
Wales look in fine form for their match against New Zealand next week, after they beat Canada 61-26 at the Millennium Stadium on Friday, scoring nine tries.
It suffered from being a foregone conclusion and yet there was still fun as both sides adopted a positive approach to the game and ran with the ball. The Canadians were earnest, the Welsh striving to give the impression that they were hanging onto their structures.
But at anthem time when you looked down the Canadian line they looked so boyish compared to the rugged Welsh - made more boyish because Mike James and Jamie Cudmore were playing club rugby in France. They could have done with them.
When you looked down the lines during the Welsh anthem you saw Sonny Parker. Gavin Henson was a last-minute withdrawal - for "injury". It was not a manly injury like a hamstring or ligaments somewhere. Henson could not be that ordinary. It was an ingrown toenail, proving the fragility of his humanity.
Rain threatened Cardiff and so the roof was closed. The Canadians wore red and so Wales played in a jersey that was not quite white, perhaps ivory, perhaps steel, as the sponsors insisted on calling it, but their numbers were red.
Bless Wales's rugby folk! Last week when Romania played Scotland there were 12 128 spectators at Murrayfield. This week at Millennium Stadium there were 74 022 spectators to watch Canada and Wales.
Canada scored first when Australian James Pritchard, sometimes a fly-half but today on the wing, goaled a penalty when Ian Evans was penalised for coming in the side. He goaled another two penalties in the first half and flyhalf Derek Daypuck slotted a left-footed drop when a penalty set Canada attacking.
Wales did not kick at goal once. They tapped, they kicked for touch and they took a scrum as they went in search of inevitable tries.
The first came after six minutes as they attacked following a tapped penalty. Ryan Jones got to the posts but Canada won a great turn-over only to have the clearing kickpartially charged down by Dwayne Peel. Wales attacked on the left and James Hook dropped the pass straight onto his boot to thread a perfect grubber through the defence for a try for captain, Gareth Thomas who was celebrating his 90th cap for Wales.
Shane Williams got the next when Wales went through many phases and the left wing danced between two props and then clean past two defenders on a run of some 30 metres to score at the posts.
Canada had a good opportunity to score when Pritchard, wearing 11 but playing on the right wing, ran and chipped. Dwayne Peel was tackled out at the corner but Canada lost the five-metre line-out They had three more of those in the second half but then Wales did not contest, looking instead to defend the maul - not all that successfully as Canada scored two tries.
Shane Williams set the next try going somewhere in Wales's 22 and down the field they went switching and changing angles and passing happily amongst themselves till hooker Matthew Rees enjoyed scoring the try. When Wales took a five-metre scrum instead of a penalty they shoved Canada to smithereens. The Canadians broke out of the scrum and the referee awarded a penalty try. And all the time James Hook kept converting, missing just one of the nine tries Wales scored.
At half-time Wales led 28-12.
It threatened to become a rout early in the second half when three tries took the score to 47-12. The first was scored by Peel when Wales split a line-out and threw deep to Jonathan Thomas. He played back to Peel who burst through for a simple try.
After first Gareth Thomas and then Mark Jones had lost the ball over the line, Jonathan Thomas got two tries. The first came when Peel broke wide from a five-metre scrum and played back inside to him. The second came as the Canadians fell off many tackles till eventually they ran out of tacklers altogether. That was the conversion which Hook missed.
Penalties brought the Canadians to a six-metre line-out and then a five-metre line-out and then one of the Fletch twins, Dan, plunged over for a try. From far out Pritchard, whose goal-kicking was immaculate, converted.
The rhythm of the match was disrupted by numerous substitutions going into the final 20 minutes, but when Martyn Williams collected a stray Canadian pass in the Welsh 22 he started a move which ended with a clean break and a jink by replacement Ceri Sweeney for a try.
Canada came to within a few metres of the line when replacement Justin Mensah-Coker broke going right. Canada kept on the attack, thanks to penalties, and eventually Mike Pyke came off the left wing to take an inside pass and plunge over with six minutes left to play.
After Sweeney had kicked a cross-kick dead Pritchard tried a quick drop-out near touch. He played inside where there were two Canadians and a good chance of scoring. But Tom Shanklin got the pass and went off for an easy try, which Hook converted to give Wales its highest score against Canada.
Man of the Match: The most obvious candidates, in ascending order, were Ian Evans, James Hook, Martyn Williams, Dwayne Peel and our Man of the match Shane Williams. There was a frisson of excitement every time the ball went his way and he did not disappoint when he got it.
Moment of the Match: The whole move that led to Matthew Rees's try.
Villain of the Match: Nobody at all. As referee Tony Spreadbury said to Ian Evans with ten minutes to go: "I've got cards in my pocket and I've not been anywhere near 'em, it's not been that kind of game."
Tries: Thomas G., Williams S., Rees, penalty try, Peel, Thomas J. 2, Sweeney, Shanklin
Cons: Hook 8
Tries: Pletch D., Daypuck
Cons: Pritchard 2
Pens: Pritchard 3
Drop goals: Daypuck
Wales: 15 Gareth Thomas (c), 14 Mark Jones, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Sonny Parker, 11 Shane Williams, 10 James Hook, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Ryan Jones, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Jonathan Thomas, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins
Replacements: 16 Rhys Thomas, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Robert Sidoli, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Michael Phillips, 21 Ceri Sweeney, 22 Lee Byrne.
Canada: 15 Ed Fairhurst, 14 Mike Pyke, 13 Ryan Smith, 12 David Spicer, 11 James Prichard, 10 Derek Daypuck, 9 Morgan Williams (c), 8 Sean-Michael Stephen, 7 Stan McKeen, 6 Mike Webb, 5 Mike Burak, 4 Luke Tait, 3 Forrest Gainer, 2 Mark Lawson, 1 Kevin Tkachuk
Replacements: 16 Pat Riordan, 17 Dan Pletch, 18 Mike Pletch, 19 Stu Ault, 20 Aaron Carpenter, 21 Ander Monro, 22 Justin Mensah-Coker
Referee: Tony Spreadbury (England)
Touch judges: Dave Pearson (England), Federico Cuesta (Argentina)
Television match official: Geoff Warren (England)
Assessor: Bob Francis (New Zealand)