Mon, Mar 21, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Wales gets Grand Slam

RUGBY INTERNATIONALS With its first title in 11 years and a victory over Ireland in Cardiff for the first time since 1983, the Welsh were perfect in their title quest


Wales' captains Gareth Thomas, left, and Michael Owen, right, hold the Six Nations Trophy after defeating Ireland at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, Saturday. Wales captured its first Grand Slam since 1978 and a first Six Nations title for 11 years with a 32-20 victory over Ireland.


Wales recaptured past glory with its first Six Nations rugby union Grand Slam since 1978, beating Ireland 32-20 Saturday amid emotional scenes in Cardiff.

On the day defending champion France stayed in contention with a 56-13 win over Italy in Rome and England maintained its domination over Scotland with a 43-22 victory at Twickenham, Welsh fans and players, past and present, were in tears at the Millennium Stadium.

Wales emerged from shadows of France and England with its first title in 11 years and a victory over Ireland in Cardiff for the first time since 1983.

In Mike Ruddock's first season in charge, the Welsh have gone from Six Nations strugglers to Grand Slam champions with the sort of attacking rugby that matched the great Wales teams of the 1970s when they won three Slams.

"This team draws its strength from the hard times it has been through together," Ruddock said. "They've shown tremendous character and spirit to get through those hard times.

"The big thing for us is that we've shown no fear all season and now we've been rewarded by winning the Grand Slam. Today is all about the players. They're the ones who make the tackles, score the tries and put their bodies on the line. They deserve all the plaudits they get."

Prop Gethin Jenkins and fullback Kevin Morgan crossed for tries as Ruddock's men followed victories over England, Italy, France and Scotland with an easier-than-expected win over Ireland despite late tries by Marcus Horan and Geordan Murphy.

The Welsh fans among the 75,000 in the Millennium Stadium began singing when their side was ahead 29-6 with 13 minutes to go.

The victory meant Wales now has nine Grand Slams -- three fewer than England -- and 23 outright titles.

"It is brilliant. It is a credit to the team. We have come through some dark periods," said Wales scrumhalf Dwayne Peel, who is being tipped to gain a place on the Lions squad to tour New Zealand in June and July.

"The fans came out and the boys performed. There were also 40,000 fans in Scotland last week, and it is just awesome. For Wales to win the Grand Slam for the first time in 27 years is something special."

David Marty scored two of France's seven tries on his debut as the defending champion overwhelmed Italy in Rome to leave the Italians in last place with five losses.

The French needed to win by at least 42 points to stay in title contention, and managed that at the sun-drenched Stadio Flaminio, although Wales dashed those hopes later by beating the Irish in Cardiff.

The first-place New South Wales Waratahs won their fourth consecutive match in rugby's Super 12 competition Saturday, beating South Africa's Stormers 25-10.

The Waratahs won each of their previous three matches with bonus points for scoring four or more tries.

Their win at home wasn't nearly as convincing, but it bucked a weekend trend of matches going the way of the visitors.

Elsewhere, replacement flyhalf Matt Giteau scored two tries in his haul of 24 points to lead the ACT Brumbies to a 34-29 win over the Cats at Johannesburg's Ellis Park Stadium.

The visitors scored four tries to secure a bonus point and move into second spot on the table.

South Africa's Bulls combined a powerful forward effort with suffocating defense to upset the Hurricanes 21-12 at Wellington, New Zealand, and Canterbury picked up a bonus point before halftime in beating the Blues 41-19 at Auckland.

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