RUGBY UNION: Henson's magic touch finishes England

Wales 11 England 9 Try: S Williams Pens: Hodgson 3 Pens: S Jones, Henson Half-time: 8-3 Attendance: 72,500; Six Nations 2005: Spectacular long-range penalty brings Wales their first Cardiff win over the old enemy since 1993
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The Independent Online
They have waited 12 long years for this, which to many must have seemed like a lifetime, but finally Wales have knocked England's sweet chariot off its axis. Wales, who have not beaten the English in Cardiff since 1993, secured a famous victory against the world champions here yesterday and it could not have been much closer.

Wales finally got home by a try and two penalties to three penalties and it was not until the 76th minute that Gavin Henson provided the decisive act. Charlie Hodgson had put England in front for the first time in the match in the 69th minute with his third penalty before Henson struck.

Stephen Jones, who had kicked indifferently, was bypassed on this occasion and with his first and last kick at goal Henson struck from about 45 metres. The kick will be remembered as long as the victory, which denied England a shot at not only a Grand Slam but a Triple Crown. They are both still within Wales's sight.

After the opening hymns and arias, the air of Welsh optimism was almost tangible and from the evidence of the opening quarter it seemed to be justified.

Hodgson showed a lovely early touch with a brilliant touch-finder but England lost their foothold when Steve Thompson failed to find his jumper at their first line-out.

Wales made their intentions clear when Shane Williams, with a typically dazzling run, left three English forwards in his wake, although the move came to nothing. Wales had the first chance to put points on the board when Jamie Noon was penalised for not rolling away in the tackle. But Stephen Jones, from nearly 50 metres, pushed the kick to the left of the upright.

However, three minutes later, Wales hit the front with a try that threatened to raise the Millennium Stadium's roof - which, incidentally, was closed. It all stemmed from Thompson, who again failed to find Danny Grewcock at a line-out inside the English 22. Martyn Williams, winning his 50th cap, snaffled possession at the tail and Wales had a great attacking opportunity, which they did not waste.

Having stretched England on the right flank, they switched the focus to the left. After some cool and considered play by Henson and Michael Owen, the latter throwing out a long pass to Shane Williams, the left wing had the room and the pace to go over in the corner.

Worryingly for Wales, they lost a scrum on their own put-in which enabled the England locks to drive towards the posts, and when Wales illegally brought a halt to proceedings, Hodgson kicked an easy penalty to make it 5-3.

The stand-off, playing in place of the injured Jonny Wilkinson, then had a chance to kick England into the lead but he made a bit of a mess of his drop-goal attempt which, even so, struck the left-hand upright before rebounding to safety.

The pressure on both No 10s was starting to tell and if Hodgson's drop- goal shot was not a thing of beauty, Stephen Jones' attempt was downright ugly. Under pressure from Ben Kay, Jones, with options left and right, completely miskicked.

The force was with Wales and Grewcock was getting hotter under the collar by the minute. With Wales pressing at a ruck the Bath lock was spotted by a touch judge for putting the boot in, and after the referee Steve Walsh consulted his assistant he lectured the wrong player. The man spoken to was the innocent Chris Jones but the confusion was understandable. Both were wearing similar scrum caps. Whatever, Stephen Jones, who had been none too impressive, landed the angled penalty from 30 yards to put Wales 8-3 ahead after 23 minutes. They might have increased it but for Henson ignoring an overlap on his right.

England were now manning the barricades and after Josh Lewsey had conceded a scrum five, all hell, or at least a part of it, broke loose. Wales were driving for the line when Grewcock put a boot into the head of Dwayne Peel as the scrum-half was about to receive the ball. There was further consultation between referee and touch judge and this time they got the culprit bang to rights, Grewcock being sent to cool off in the sin-bin after being shown a yellow card.

The problem for Wales was that their captain Gareth Thomas, who had witnessed the incident, also lost his temper and in pushing Grewcock to the ground he not only persuaded the referee to reverse the penalty that had been awarded to Wales but also got himself a yellow card.

It was not the only penalty England won at the end of the first half and Hodgson should have made it 8-6 after 37 minutes but, from a reasonable range and angle, he missed by a mile.

The second half was tighter than a drum. It began with Brent Cockbain appearing to stamp on the head of Joe Worsley. The England No 8 went off to have a bandage applied to a wound but returned to the increasingly tense fray shortly afterwards.

Young Mathew Tait was driven back by a huge hit by Henson. That aside, England were gradually showing signs of taking control. Hodgson reduced the deficit to two points in the 47th minute.

Wales' line-out possession was becoming more and more unreliable, although they received a bonus when Andy Hazell recklessly fell offside at a Welsh line-out, giving Stephen Jones a chance with a long-range penalty. The stand-off had the accuracy but not the distance and his kick fell just below the bar.

England took off Tait and his replacement Olly Barkley made an immediate impact with some telling kicks. They were not wasted as England hit the front for the first time in the 69th minute. Gethin Jenkins fell foul at a ruck and Hodgson made no mistake with an excellent kick to make it 8-9.

Their lead lasted all of six minutes as Jason Robinson conceded a penalty close to his own 10-metre line. Clearly Jones did not have the firepower to land the goal but Henson did and the centre duly obliged with a massive kick in every sense. It proved to be the match-winner.

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