IT WAS a day that Wales will never forget and one that will live with England for many a year to come. The ghost of Murrayfield in 1990 has yet to be fully exorcised. For England there will be no third successive Grand Slam, not even a Triple Crown. For Wales both prizes remain before them, but for the moment the most glittering prize of all is the defeat of England and the resurrection of their own confidence and self-esteem.
Courage, it has been said, is the first of the human qualities because it guarantees all others. And throughout a match of torrid intensity, Wales displayed valour far beyond the call of duty. Their forwards put their bodies selflessly where they were most at risk and had England so rattled in the loose that it was not until the final quarter of an hour of a pulsating first half that England were able to gain a foothold inside the Welsh 22.
It was then that Wales displayed their other qualities. Cussed defiance, determination, unquestionable spirit and yet more courage. As England, with an increasing sense of purpose, built up the intensity and variety of their attacks, so Wales defended with increasing ferocity. Nowhere was this more evident than during the many skirmishes within a matter of inches of the Welsh line. Dewi Morris, who, after a hesitant start, was beginning to exert massive influence on the game and as a by- product was having a most beneficial effect on his loose forwards, was on a couple of occasions run to ground just short of the line. In the first half Will Carling too was held up at arm's length, and if pigs cannot yet fly we now know for sure that flankers can sidestep and that props can sprint.
The subtlety and pace of Mike Teague's change of direction as he left Wayne Proctor leaden-footed was reminiscent of Gerald Davies at his best. And on one occasion Jeff Probyn, taking up Hunter's station, positively twinkled down the touchline.
England by now were in full cry, having overcome the most testing 20 minutes of their season so far. The number of times that the Welsh forwards were able to spoil and then pilfer England's possession was quite embarrassing. Furthermore, they were making astute use of their possession. Neil Jenkins, as had been expected, showered Jon Webb with a series of high kicks, but in almost all instances the England full-back, who had been the target for a campaign of sustained humiliation on television prior to the match, held firm.
The initial ferocity of the Welsh attacks, however, was beginning to fade, their scrummage was buckling, their line-out was being slaughtered and their backs were at full stretch against England's lightning raids. Webb, who had kicked two penalties, the second after 28 minutes to restore England's lead at 6-3, and Guscott, who from unpromising line-out possession had swivelled languidly on to his left foot before dropping the sweetest of goals, were the players responsible for turning England's increasing superiority into points.
A try seemed inevitable. Sure enough, it came, but when it did it was scored over England's line. Emyr Lewis, stranded with nowhere to go in midfield, kicked more in hope than expectation for Ieuan Evans on the wing. Evans fly- hacked on, left a strangely ponderous Rory Underwood in his slipstream. Jenkins converted and with Webb missing a chance to restore England's lead in injury time, Wales, who could easily have been 15 points behind, were a point ahead.
Visions of Murrayfield, three seasons ago, when England had forfeited a Grand Slam, must have returned to haunt them. It may even have been a topic of conversation during half-time. But all England had to do was to keep their concentration, their nerve and, above all, the momentum which had come to such a shuddering halt with Evans' try. They tried, but for every move attempted by England, Wales produced the defence to match it, and even contrived the odd counter- thrust. There were last-ditch tackles, too numerous to mention, but one on Martin Bayfield who, like Morris earlier, appeared to have been driven over the tryline, and another later, the most memorable of all by Stuart Davies, who had a magnificent match, on Morris himself, were the pick.
Still England's attacking instincts were not dulled. An elegant threequarter move to the right almost came to grief in the manner that had led to Evans' try, but Guscott, so mercurial, was back to pick up the pieces. He was late-tackled and Webb's penalty, struck to perfection, hit the post and rebounded into the safe haven of Welsh arms.
Still England pressed on regardless, a point behind. Jenkins' kicks to Webb no longer had the same accuracy nor did they pose quite the same threat, but all England's attempts to run the ball back foundered on the rocks of the Welsh defence. Desperation was now creeping into England's play. There was a thunderous tackle by Scott Gibbs on Ian Hunter which raised Welsh spirits to new heights. Webb then kicked England back into the Welsh half after a collapsed scrum.
Into the last 10 minutes and another turning point. Lewis, positioned confidently on the 22, provided a moment of inspiration by fielding Rob Andrew's garryowen and calling for the mark. His kick to touch would have brought a glow of pride to any full-back.
Carling, not for the first time, took his eye off the ball and fumbled a pass with a two-man overlap beckoning outside him. Still England kept going forward. There was relief at last for the sorely pressed Welsh with another thumping kick out of defence by Jenkins, and another directed towards Webb, whose courage and skill throughout were exemplary.
But now came the first signs of English raggedness. Their loose forwards were a fraction slower to the ball, Wade Dooley and Bayfield were surrendering the odd ball at the line-out, and England's attacks were becoming shapeless.
One last surge. A line-out won by England and Ben Clarke, whose enthusiasm for the fray had remained undiminished, battered his way into the midfield. He was stopped, but England won the ball from the ruck, swung it right, and it was Carling's turn to run into a mass of red jerseys. The last minute of normal time was up. Yet another English line-out, but this time they conceded a penalty.
Jenkins moved Wales 25 yards further from danger and a few seconds closer to the whistle that all Wales longed to hear. He moved them another 20 yards before that whistle went for the end of 80 minutes and the ending of what has seemed like 80 years of disappointment and frustration. Then 50,000 Welshmen rose to acclaim their heroes, every one of them more likely to forget their own birthdays than Saturday 6 February 1993.
AS HE provided the moment of the day on the field, it was no surprise that Wales's captain, Ieuan Evans, took pride of place off it. And the surge of emotion that engulfed him and his team was just as predictable. 'After all the problems we've had in the last few years, this has been just wonderful,' he said. 'And I couldn't have asked for a better performance from the boys. There was still a long way to go after I had scored, but there was an incredible spirit amongst them.'
Among the spectators, too, to whom Evans gave part of the credit for his decisive try. 'I think the roar of the crowd helped me with the try,' he said. 'Perhaps Rory (Underwood) didn't hear me coming - and it was the roar that kept me going to the line. Scoring the only try to win the game - I couldn't ask for any more than that.'
But the Welsh insisted their victory was more than a triumph of passion. 'Before the match, the atmosphere was very tense,' Evans said. 'But the last thing we wanted to do was to get too emotional beforehand and we achieved that.'
His coach, Alan Davies, expanded on the theme: 'No one should underestimate the way that the Welsh players have developed,' he said. And the manager, Robert Norster, who knows a little about winning line-out battles, pinpointed Tony Copsey and Gareth Llewellyn as examples. 'They gathered a lot of quality ball and were outstanding at crunch times,' he said.
For England, the disappointment ran deep, but was aimed at their own inadequacies. Geoff Cooke, their manager, said: 'It is a major setback, but we have simply got to pick up and go on even though it hurts. You don't become a poor team overnight. We had enough territory, possession and chances to get the score, but Wales defended well. It was a combination on our part of skill and judgement failure.' Of Evans's try he said: 'You stand or fall by your collective effort and everybody shares Rory's disappointment.'
Underwood graciously admitted: 'I did not see Ieuan coming. It was a mistake on my part.' But Will Carling, as downcast as Evans was euphoric, said: 'We win matches by our team effort and we lose matches because of the collective failure of the whole 15. We are all very disappointed. But we still have something special as a team. We have played some great rugby and we will learn from this defeat.'
The Welsh have a different lesson in mind. 'I think we have to guard against an excess of euphoria after this,' Davies said. 'I know people will now be saying that if we beat England we can beat everyone else. It's certainly a step in the right direction.'
But the last word belongs to Evans. 'I am not the happiest person in Wales tonight,' he said. 'There are two and a half million of them.'
WALES: M Rayer (Cardiff); I Evans (Llanelli, capt), S Gibbs (Swansea), M Hall (Cardiff), W Proctor (Llanelli); N Jenkins (Pontypridd), R Jones (Swansea); R Evans (Llanelli), N Meek (Pontypool), H Williams-Jones (South Wales Police), G Llewellyn (Neath), A Copsey, E Lewis (both Llanelli), S Davies, R Webster (both Swansea).
ENGLAND: J Webb (Bath); I Hunter (Northampton), J Guscott (Bath), W Carling (Harlequins, capt), R Underwood (Leicester); R Andrew (Wasps), D Morris (Orrell); J Leonard, B Moore (both Harlequins), J Probyn (Wasps), M Bayfield (Northampton), W Dooley (Preston Grasshoppers), M Teague (Moseley), B Clarke (Bath), P Winterbottom (Harlequins). Replacements: P De Glanville (Bath) for Hunter, 79.
Referee: J Dume (France).
Scorers: Webb (pen, 4 min, 0-3); Jenkins (pen, 10min, 3-3); Webb (pen, 28min, 3-6); Guscott (dg, 38min, 3-9); Evans/Jenkins (try/conv, 40min, 10-9).
Ian Hunter, the England winger who went off towards the end with a gashed eyelid, was detained in hospital last night after having an operation. England's doctor Ben Gilfeather said: 'He has damaged his tear duct and is having an operation on his lower, inner eyelid.'
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