A Welsh team patched together from Northern Ford Premiership and reserve sides as much as from Super League, gave England not one, but two severe shocks to the system in a pulsating match at the Racecourse Ground here last night.
Just as they did against Australia in the World Cup, the Welsh produced a glorious first half, their unlikely heroics summed up by Jason Lee who was repairing a roof in Bradford when he got the call on Monday morning, and scored two tries.
"I think everyone must have been staggered by that performance, considering the trauma of putting the side together," said the Welsh coach Neil Kelly, who guided Widnes to the NFP title on Saturday before making an equally good job of this challenge.
Iestyn Harris might have been limited by his wrist injury to a role as a water carrier, but Lee Briers' kicking game from Harris' usual position of stand-off asked questions of a hesitant England from the start.
It was an unbelievable first half for the Welsh part of the crowd, which arrived hoping for the best but, after all the withdrawals, fearing the worst.
With Lee, Damian Gibson and Briers himself scoring tries they swept to a 16-point lead.
Paul Deacon's pass to his Bradford team mate, Jamie Peacock got England moving at last with the first of Paul Sculthorpe's hat trick narrowing the gap further.
The Welsh response epitomised their spirit, Gibson sprinting down the right wing and the ball going swiftly to the left for Lee to score his second, with Brier's conversion and drop goal meaning that England would have to score at least three times after the break if David Waite's first match in charge was not to end in embarrassment.
Against a team which tired, they always looked capable of doing that. Terry Newton's burst from dummy-half sent Andy Farrell over, Paul King released Lee Radford and a mistake at the play-the-ball by Gibson saw Karl Pratt giving them the lead for the first time.
When Sculthorpe completed his hat-trick with two quick tries, it looked a question of how many more England would score, but Keiron Cunningham, playing in the unaccustomed role of loose forward, set up Chris Morley's try and Paul Atcheson created an outrageous possibility of Wales snatching it back at the death until Paul Wellens made it safe.
Waite, the new Australian at the helm of both England and Great Britain, might not have been expected to learn much more than where Wrexham is on the map. Instead, he saw how some of his Ashes candidates coped under pressure. The results were mixed but the exercise turned out to be worthwhile.
WALES: Lennon (Castleford); Gibson (Halifax), Pearson (Wakefield), Critchley (Whitehaven), Lee (Halifax); Briers (Warrington), Eaton (Dewsbury); Mason (Wakefield), Watson (Widnes), Whittle (Leigh), Morley (Leigh), Busby (Warrington), Cunningham (St Helens). Substitutes used: Atcheson (Widnes), Hughes (London), Dean (Wigan) Price (St Helens).
ENGLAND: Wellens (St Helens); Pryce (Bradford), Radlinkski (Wigan), Senior (Leeds), Walker (Leeds); Sculthorpe (St Helens), Deacon (Bradford); Anderson (Bradford), Newton (Wigan), McDermott (Bradford), Peacock (Bradford), Sinfield (Leeds), Farrell (Wigan). Substitutes used: Pratt (Leeds), King (Hull), Sykes (Castleford), Radford (Bradford).
Referee: T Alibert (France).Reuse content