England's forward march

Five Nations' Championship: Davies sent off as overpowered Wales are put to the sword by Underwood

THIS WAS less of a festival of reconciliation between England and the ground they like least than a victory from grudging opponents who gained some measure of honour in adversity. The dismissal of the Welsh tight-head prop, John Davies, midway through the second half was an insurmountable handicap for their already beleaguered pack, although the game had already gone beyond Wales's grasp. But all hope went with Davies, who became the fifth Welshman to be sent off in an international. And none surely can have been so bewildered as to the reason why.

His crime escaped all but the touch judge, Patrick Robin, whose consultation with the referee ended in Davies being shown the red card. There had been some harmless grappling between the Welshman and Martin Johnson in the maul, but Davies had apparently been spotted stamping on the England flanker, Ben Clarke, and the referee had no choice but to send him off. He was later suspended for 60 days.

The reorganisation of the Welsh front row, which required a tactical injury to Hemi Taylor, did not appreciably weaken the Welsh scrum, which had managed to give England their most uncomfortable passage of the season so far. Not only did they steal a strike against the head but, in the first half, Kyran Bracken was having the utmost difficulty getting the ball to the feet of his forwards, whether it was the front row or, as occasionally happened, straight into the second.

In the conditions, England eschewed all attempts at the running game. Jeremy Guscott can scarcely have been so inactive in attack as the forwards returned to basics, keeping the ball entombed in the maul which at times must have resembled hell's kitchen. To their credit, Wales held on as best they could despite their physical and, in the final quarter, numerical disadvantage. Everything about this England side in their two previous championship matches has been so superbly stage-managed, so utterly controlled and so immaculately rehearsed, that there was no room left for surprise in Cardiff yesterday.

Or so we thought until the opening quarter of this match when Derwyn Jones, Gareth Llewellyn and Taylor made such a mockery of England's line- out that the Welsh half-backs, Robert Jones and Neil Jenkins, were controlling play on their own terms. England tried a number of line-out options, the most successful of which was the switching of Tim Rodber to the middle.

Nevertheless, it was Wales who had taken the lead when Jenkins kicked the first of his three penalties. It is difficult to see how Wales can score from anything other than penalties at the moment, and almost impossible for them to imagine life without Jenkins. There was certainly no venom in their attacks from wider out, although the Welsh were wretchedly unfortunate in losing their most elusive runner, Tony Clement, early on.

Gradually, England regained their composure. The Cardiff Factor, even to the power of 20, was clearly not going to be enough to protect the Welsh from severe burning by the England forwards. Will Carling made a surging run down the Welsh left, Bayfield won the line-out, and England drove in an irresistible phalanx towards the Welsh line. They were stopped short, but Victor Ubogu broke off from the side of the maul and plunged over. Rob Andrew, whose game lacked the vision and variety of his previous performances this season, kicked the conversion and later kicked a penalty, but unaccountably missed with another on half-time.

Heartened by this, Wales returned with vigour for Jenkins to kick his second penalty but, through the faithful reproduction of driving forward play which has served them so well, England forced their way back with another Andrew penalty.

It was here that the game began to lose its shape. The small scraps of possession falling to Wales were frittered away by moments of indecision on the rare occasions when they had the English line in their sights. Their kicking from the hand was also wayward and Mike Catt, in only his third international at full-back, finished with scarcely a smudge on his all-white uniform. Nevertheless, he is beginning to learn the trade in his new position, his covering and positional play improving all the time and his incisive running in the back line is undoubtedly giving England greater width.

Catt showed up to maximum effect in the closing stages when England were in complete control and when Rory Underwood, with two tries, exorcised all the demons which have haunted him here. His first came after Jenkins had made the most terrible hash of a drop-out on the Welsh 22.

The ball went straight to Ben Clarke, who fed Carling. The centre was held, but Bayfield drove on, and with Catt in the line to make the extra man, Underwood skidded over in the corner. And as the game moved towards its rather muted close, Underwood scored again after Carling had broken and Guscott and Catt had handled in what was England's best move of the day.

If the game was of coarser texture than England would have wished, the wet conditions may in part have been to blame. But despite the almost hypnotic power of their forwards, there is too little about their back play as yet that is instinctively unconventional. But on the ground where they have won only twice in the last 32 years, victory will, for the moment, suffice.

Wales: A Clement (Swansea); I Evans (Llanelli, capt), M Taylor (Pontypool), N Davies (Llanelli), N Walker (Cardiff); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Jones (Swansea); M Griffiths (Cardiff), G Jenkins (Swansea), J Davies (Neath), G Llewellyn (Neath), D Jones (Cardiff), H Taylor (Cardiff), R Collins (Pontypridd), E Lewis (Cardiff). Replacements: M Back (Bridgend) for Clement (10); R Moon (Llanelli) for Walker (46); H Williams-Jones (Llanelli) for Taylor (60).

England: M Catt (Bath); T Underwood (Leicester), W Carling (Harlequins, capt), J Guscott (Bath), R Underwood (Leicester); R Andrew (Wasps), K Bracken (Bristol); J Leonard (Harlequins), B Moore (Harlequins), V Ubogu (Bath), M Johnson (Leicester), M Bayfield (Northampton), T Rodber (Northampton), B Clarke (Bath), D Richards (Leicester).

Referee: D Mn (France).

How they stand

P W D L F A Pts

England 3 3 0 0 74 27 6

Scotland 2 2 0 0 49 34 4

France 3 1 0 2 52 63 2

Ireland 2 0 0 2 21 46 0

Wales 2 0 0 2 18 44 0

Remaining fixtures: 4 March; Scotland v Wales, Ireland v France. 18 March; England v Scotland, Wales v Ireland.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
News
Ireland will not find out whether gay couples have won the right to marry until Saturday afternoon
news
News
Kim Jong-un's brother Kim Jong-chol
news
News
Manchester city skyline as seen from Oldham above the streets of terraced houses in North West England on 7 April 2015.
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?