Mon, Nov 08, 2004 - Page 19 News List

European rugby series kicks off

AP , LONDON

South Africa's Jean De Villiers, center, brushes off tackles by Wales's Dafydd Jones, left, and Steve Jones to score a try during their International Autumn Series rugby match at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, Wales, Saturday. Springboks won 38-36.

PHOTO: AP

Tri Nations champion South Africa edged Wales 38-36, Australia outplayed Scotland 31-14 and Italy overwhelmed Canada 51-6 on Saturday as the European series of rugby union internationals began with a feast of tries.

Four South Africans crossed the Welsh line at the Millennium Stadium and the home team hit back with three including Gavin Henson's first two in international colors.

Clyde Rathbone, a former South African Under 21 captain, scored two of Australia's four first half tries as the Wallabies raced into 28-0 lead before stalling against the Scots at Murrayfield.

At the Italian town of L'Aquila, John Kirwan's Italians scored six tries with fullback Andrea Masi and hooker Fabio Ongaro collecting two each.

It was a good day for the kickers too, with Percy Montgomery scoring 23 points for the Springboks, and Wales' Stephen Jones and Italy's Rima Wakarua each kicking 21.

The Springboks twice had big leads against the Welsh in Cardiff -- 23-6 and 38-22 -- only for the Welsh to give them a fright.

Mike Ruddock's team brought the game back to 23-22 early in the second half and scored two late tries through Henson and Dwayne Peel to go within two points of a South African team which has been transformed in eight months since the arrival of Jake White as coach.

Montgomery, who plays for Newport Gwent Dragons, scored the fourth South African try for a Springboks team which also face Ireland, England and Scotland over the next three weeks.

Jaco van der Westhuyzen, Joe van Niekerk and Brent Russell also scored tries for the South Africans but, despite their dominance of the scrums and lineouts, they didn't overwhelm the Welsh.

"I am relieved that we won," White said. "At 23-6 ahead I thought we had done enough to get away, but Wales came back when most teams would have given up hope.

"We started to get a bit fancy in the way we played, and maybe some players should have gone the conservative route, but we haven't played for a while as a team and I thought we were a bit rusty."

The South Africans aim to become the first Springbok side in 43 years to go home with a Grand Slam of victories over European teams.

"From here on we can just go forward and we believe we can do it," lock forward Victor Matfield said. "We need to focus on Ireland and leave the rest of the tour to itself.

"We didn't play that well. We let it go at the end," Matfield said. "Hopefully next week we'll play the full 80 minutes."

Ruddock was frustrated that his team went so close.

"They picked their best team and that was a huge compliment to us," he said. "But we lost and that is so disappointing."

Rathbone scored two tries and set up one for Stirling Mortlock as Australia sliced through the Scottish defense almost at will for 30 minutes at rainsoaked Murrayfield. Lote Tuqiri scored the fourth try but Eddie Jones team failed to cross the Scottish line in the second half.

Matt Giteau converted all four tries and his second half penalty was Australia's only score after the break while Sean Lamont and Hugo Southwell scored their first tries in Scottish colors.

This story has been viewed 2406 times.
TOP top