Rugby Union: Perry pivotal in turning the game England's way

David Llewellyn applauds the full-back's redemption run
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EVERYTHING seemed to be going Wales' way. They had scored one try and were pressing hard for a second. For Lawrence Dallaglio and his men it was Paris revisited. And one of the most torrid times was being experienced by Matt Perry.

The Bath full-back has had a hard time recently, being dropped first by his club, then, as cruelly, by his country; for a good 15 minutes at Twickenham his suffering continued. It was his error which had let in Wales for the first of their four tries when he set himself under another Arwel Thomas bomb in the 10th minute.

Given that his fearless and flawless play under the high ball is one of his strengths, it seemed inexplicable that Perry would mess it up. But cock it up he did. In mitigation it would have taken a superhuman effort to resist taking his eyes off the ball just for a split second to adjudge where Scott Gibbs, the 15st 8lb Welsh centre, was - in his face, that's where.

The ball eluded Perry's grasp, bounced instead on his left shoulder before bobbling loose towards the England line. Gibbs' centre partner, Allan Bateman, had the speed and the angle to beat wing David Rees to the ball to score his first try.

"I made a mistake that led to a Welsh try," confessed the 21 year old afterwards. "I could see Scott Gibbs coming for me, but my rugby philosophy is not to take a backward step." And he did not. Perry did the best thing he could have done, he counter attacked. It was a seminal moment in the match, because thereafter England grew in confidence.

It was sparked by another ionospheric kick from Thomas. Perry gathered it cleanly this time and called a mark. His ears still ringing from being clattered by Gibbs, he saw the opportunity "to tap and go". And he went, scything through the red-faced, red-shirted opposition. No try on that occasion but Richard Hill and Jeremy Guscott exposed the Welsh defence for the first time.

From then on Perry opened things up as often as possible. "The game I managed to play was the open one I enjoy so much," explained Perry, winning his fifth cap. "And now I am back in the England team I don't want to let it go."