What an atmosphere! What a result! Wales at last turned their potential into a victory, though it wasn’t pretty. However, having played well against the big guns over the last 18 months and just lost, most welsh supporters would settle for a win without playing that well.
The pre-match atmosphere inside and outside the Millennium stadium was fantastic. Bryn Terfil, Aled Jones and Katherine Jenkins led the singing of the anthem, and the true opera singer led a great rendering of “Bread of Heaven”.
There was a lot of pre-match hype regarding the scrummaging ability of Julian White, but Gethin Jenkins did a great job and the England scrum superiority did not materialise.
Both teams had problems on the lines-out, and Wales played 2 high-risk lines–out on their own ball by throwing long to the tail.
Because of the lack of superiority of the English team front five, the back row was totally anonymous, and totally outplayed by an excellent Welsh back row of Daffyd Jones, Michael Owen and Martyn Williams. Williams in particular had a superb match, particularily as he’d only been passed fit a few days before the game, and had not played for several months.
Wales scored first with a try from Shane Williams. It was a good team effort with the ball being moved wide and the pass from Michael Owen to Williams was superb. Stephen Jones failed with the difficult conversion and it was 5-0 to Wales.
Wales continued to have the better of the game, but could not convert pressure into points. Hodgsen and Jones kicked a penalty each and the half time whistle saw the score 8-3 in Wale’s favour. Most Welsh supporters were wondering whether this would be enough, as it produced memories of Wales’ quarterfinal World Cup match against England in Brisbane in 2003.
The second half produced a glut of poor kicking.
Gavin Henson then produced some massive hits on Matthew Tait (twice), Mark Cuerto and Julian white. However, Hodges kicked two penalties to put England 9-8 in the lead. Had Wales blew it again?
A good burst of speed from Gareth Cooper who replaced Dwayne Peel led to the ball being kicked into the England half where Josh Lewsey was penalised for not releasing the ball.
Stephen Jones had been struggling with his kicking and he told Gareth Thomas that it was too far for him. Many of the Welsh supporters were screaming for Gavin Henson to take the kick. One moment seemed made for him, and he never looked like missing it, 11-9 to Wales. The noise in the stadium amazing, and Henson looked the coolest player in the ground.
Wales finished the game strongly though a lot of the forwards, quite naturally, looked tired near the end. In fact Wales were on England’s try line when the final whistle went.
Wales had beaten England at last and Cardiff went berserk. However, all three 6 nations games could have gone either way and it shows the competitiveness of the tournament, which is a good thing. Wales now had 3 away games in Rome, Edinburgh and Paris. The euphoria of the win against England must be put to the back of the players’ and supporters’ minds. Every game must be taken in turn and nothing assumed. Beating England is always difficult, but should be used as a stepping-stone to greater things.
WALES: Thomas (c); Luscombe, Shanklin, Henson, S Williams; S Jones, Peel; Jenkins, Davies, A Jones; Cockbain, Sidoli; D Jones, Owen, M Williams. Reps: McBryde, Yapp, Thomas, R Jones, Cooper, Sweeney, Morgan.
Tries: S Williams
Pens: S Jones, Henson
ENGLAND: Robinson (c); Cueto, Tait, Noon, Lewsey; Hodgson, Dawson; Rowntree, Thompson, White; Grewcock, Kay; Jones, Hazell, Worsley.Reps: Titterrell, Vickery, Borthwick, Forrester, Ellis, Barkley, Cohen.
Pens: Hodgson 3
REFEREE: Steve Walsh (New Zealand).