Rugby League: Davies inspires Wales recovery

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The Independent Online
Wales 18 England 16 A magnificent fightback in the last quarter of a tight and competitive John Smith's European Championship clash brought Wales their first win over England since 1977.

Their fires seemingly quenched when England hit them with three tries in four minutes, the Welsh stormed back to snatch victory with two Jonathan Davies drop goals in the last nine minutes at Cardiff.

England would have drawn first blood but for Paul Atcheson and Paul Moriarty getting underneath Anthony Farrell to stop him grounding the ball.

A couple of darting runs from Kevin Ellis then put England under pressure and when Phil Clarke was penalised for a foul on David Young, Davies missed a relatively simple penalty.

England had another likely try disallowed when Karl Harrison's pass to Richard Gay was ruled forward, but it was hardly against the run of play when the Welsh went ahead after 18 minutes. Ikram Butt dropped the ball to create the initial problem and, after Moriarty had been halted on the line, Ellis sold a big dummy to a lax English defence to stroll under the sticks and leave Davies an easy kick.

Deryck Fox's penalty, after Martin Hall had pushed his Wigan team-mate, Jason Robinson, put England on the scoreboard and they drew level when Garry Schofield's long pass exposed some thin defence out wide and Gay went in at the corner.

A lack of time for both sides to prepare was reflected in a no-frills approach, but Wales had the satisfaction of going in ahead at the break as a result of Davies succeeding where Fox failed when each side were awarded a long-range penalty.

Ellis, revitalised by his move to Workington, continued to trouble England and it was from his crisp pass that Davies came within inches of expanding the Welsh lead.

Having survived that, England took the lead for the first time, Paul Newlove making ground down the left and Fox's high kick eluding Atcheson for the Bradford scrum-half to follow up and score both the try and the conversion.

Before Wales could recover, Steve McCurrie, a first-half substitute for the injured Richard Russell, sent out a well-judged pass to Robinson, who pulled a hamstring in the act of scoring.

Davies' penalty after Ellis had been tackled high brought Wales to within one score. A searing break from Davies was then only denied by an immaculate tackle by Gay, but when play switched across field Allan Bateman's suspiciously forward-looking pass gave Ellis his second try.

Davies, now asserting himself with all his old flair, levelled the score with his conversion and then, nine minutes from time, amid an ecstatic racket that belied a modest crowd of 6,232, slotted over his first drop goal. As time ran out, Davies repeatedthe trick and Wales hung on for a memorable win.

Wales: Atcheson (Wigan); Ford (Salford), Bateman (Warrington), Harris (Warrington), Sullivan (St Helens); Davies (Warrington), Ellis; (Workington), Skerrett (Wigan), Hall (Wigan), Young (Salford), Moriarty (Halifax), Perrett (Halifax), Eyres (Leeds). Substitutes: Hadley (Widnes), Daio Powell (Wakefield), Cowie (Wigan) for Young, 49, Phillips (Workington) for Perrett, 56.

England: Gay (Hull); Robinson (Wigan), Daryl Powell (Sheffield), Newlove (Bradford), Butt (Featherstone); Schofield (Leeds), Fox (Bradford); Harrison (Halifax), Russell (Castleford), Howard (Leeds), Farrell (Sheffield), Nickle (St Helens), Clarke (Wigan). Substitutes: Baldwin (Halifax) for Newlove, 70, Cassidy (Wigan) for Robinson, 53 , McNamara (Hull) for Howard, 71, McCurrie (Widnes) for Russell, 21.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).

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