England have been avoiding the Welsh at second-string level for the best part of 25 years and now we know why. Wales A came out fighting at Leicester last night - indeed, they were almost spitting with righteous anger - and having shown their nearest and dearest that they meant business, they proceeded to storm away with the spoils on the back of a murderous second-half display.
The English were so comfortably off at the break that there seemed no way back for the visitors, despite their passionate engagement of the heavier home pack. Wales managed only flashes of attacking intent in the opening 40 minutes and for a while at least, it looked as though the only satisfaction they would take from the match would be a points victory in the fisticuff department.
It took all of five minutes for the two packs to forget about rugby and concentrate on the more serious business of squaring up to each other. Ben Clarke, the English captain, prevented his Richmond clubmate, Andy Moore, from taking a quick tapped penalty and in the time it takes to deliver a right hook, Chris Wyatt had piled in with a couple of haymakers. They were not in the same class as the short-armer inflicted by Garin Jenkins on George Chuter, however. That piece of pugilism earned the Swansea hooker a well-deserved brush with officialdom.
In the meantime, Mapletoft was opening up a useful gap with his right boot. Three penalties and a straightforward drop goal gave him a 12-point haul by the half-hour mark and with Victor Ubogu, Simon Shaw and the England back row enjoying a clear advantage in the areas of legal conflict, there seemed no good reason why Wales should achieve even a toehold on proceedings.
However, the visitors were much the more enterprising away from the bump and grind. Kevin Morgan and Gareth Wyatt looked stiletto sharp as they worked their Sardis Road specials down the right touchline and there were occasional flashes of unmitigated cheek from Byron Hayward, too.
The Ebbw Vale outside-half orchestrated a long period of Welsh pressure as the interval beckoned, only to see Jason Lewis spill the all-important scoring pass seven metres from the English line. Just to rub it in, England's forwards immediately worked their way back into Welsh territory and, on the stroke of half-time, a careless shove at a line-out gifted Mapletoft his fourth penalty.
Depressingly for England, that last slap in the face served to concentrate Welsh minds to a wondrous degree. They re-emerged for the second half with a far greater sense of forward purpose and as a result, they turned the occasion on its head by rattling through the third quarter at a point a minute.
Hayward started the ball rolling with his second penalty before claiming the first try on 52 minutes, wrestling his way over following a bulldozing oblique-angled drive from Matthew Lloyd. The conversion followed, as did another penalty, before Jenkins worked a rolling maul intelligently enough to burrow over from close range.
The floodgates were well and truly open now and further tries from Moore and Dafydd James, the second beautifully created by Mark Taylor and the outstanding Kingsley Jones, took Wales past the 40-point mark. They were winning the second half by the small matter of 38-0 when Ubogu rumbled over for an irrelevant try in the fourth minute of injury time.
England A: Try Ubogu; Conversion Mapletoft; Penalties Mapletoft 4; Drop goal Mapletoft. Wales A: Tries Hayward, Jenkins, Andy Moore, James; Conversions Hayward 3; Penalties Hayward 5.
ENGLAND A: C Catling (Gloucester); B Johnson (Gloucester), J Baxendell (Sale), M Allen (Northampton), A Adebayo (Bath); M Mapletoft (Gloucester), A Gomarsall (Wasps); V Ubogu (Bath), G Chuter (Saracens), W Green (Wasps), C Gillies (Richmond), S Shaw (Wasps), R Jenkins (Harlequins), B Clarke (Richmond, capt), P Sanderson (Sale). Replacements: N Greenstock (Wasps) for Allen, 73.
WALES A: K Morgan (Pontypridd); G Wyatt (Pontypridd), M Taylor (Swansea), J Lewis (Pontypridd), D James (Pontypridd); B Hayward (Ebbw Vale), A Moore (Richmond); A Griffiths (Pontypridd), G Jenkins (Swansea), C Anthony (Swansea), S Roy (Pontypridd), A Moore (Swansea), M Lloyd (Pontypridd), C Wyatt (Llanelli), K Jones (Ebbw Vale, capt). Replacements: I Boobyer (Neath) for Lloyd, 64; V Cooper (Llanelli) for Roy, 70.
Referee: E Murray (Scotland).
l Duncan Hodge, the outside-half, scored 19 points, including a vital second-half try as Scotland A overcame an early 12-point deficit to pull off a 24-20 victory over an experienced France A side in Edinburgh yesterday.Reuse content