Rugby Union: Welsh leave their mark in history

AND SO, amazingly, there is a little corner of north-west London that will be forever Wales. How wonderfully bizarre that one of the most thrilling feats in the history of Welsh rugby should take place in a home match played on enemy territory, where their temporary residency had previously yielded four defeats in five matches. All that and much more besides, not least the run of five consecutive defeats at England's hands, disappeared in the third minute of injury time at Wembley yesterday when Scott Gibbs swerved across the line with his hand in the air.

Wales's victory presented Scotland with the final Five Nations title, but the champions' euphoria last night can hardly have matched that of the men in red, who had toiled through a difficult first half but came out for the second period determined to get something from the day. So, after Scotland's win in Paris on Saturday, this topsy-turvy weekend brought down the curtain on a tournament that has been continuously contested since 1910, when Wales opened the series by scoring 10 tries in a 49-14 win over France.

Two tries were enough to do the job for yesterday's winners, against England's three. The difference, in terms of points, was the contribution of Jenkins, who kicked nervelessly and flawlessly, landing every one of his six penalties and two conversions. It may be cruel to point it out, but Jonny Wilkinson's failure to land his eminently kickable conversion of Steve Hanley's 20th-minute try, the boy wonder's only miss in seven attempts, turned out to be the difference between victory and defeat for his team.

The brave Jenkins had kept Wales in the game during a first half in which little went right for them as they tried to make Clive Woodward pay for his temerity in giving an England debut to a man named after Wales's greatest player. Jenkins's 18 points, against England's half-time aggregate of 25, were kicked into the teeth of a stiff breeze that must have added an effective 10 metres or so to the two angled kicks from close to 40 metres that he landed after 25 minutes and in first-half injury time.

Nevertheless the interval was spent in contemplation of England's general superiority. With the wind at their backs, the white shirts swept through the red defence like racing yachts slipping past a line of tethered buoys. They made their point as early as the second minute, when Mike Catt's exchange with Wilkinson ushered Dan Luger in for a try that rocked the Welsh confidence. Twenty minutes later, Richard Cockerell and Tim Rodber worked a nifty line-out trick which allowed Catt once again to provide the quick pass for Hanley to smash across the line.

But odds things were already happening. Craig Quinnell, slow to rise from a ruck on the halfway line, found that by the time he got to his feet the ball had been across the field and come back again, putting him in the perfect position to act as an auxiliary wing. Fed by the nearest back, he galumphed up the line until he met Hanley, the 6ft 6in prodigy. The younger Quinnell hit the Sale boy, supposedly the English Jonah Lomu, with exactly the abrupt ferocity that the All Black had flattened Tony Underwood on that amazing day in Cape Town in 1995.

But by this time any admiration of the spirit in which Wales approached the match was being submerged by concern about their naivety and clumsiness. Both defects were in evidence three minutes before half-time, when Shane Howarth and Gareth Thomas went for Matt Dawson's high kick, their painful collision inviting Richard Hill to collect the loose ball and notch England's third try.

Up to that point, Howarth had been having a bit of a shocker. This was a match in which his defensive qualities were most urgently required, given that Wales's midfield defence was offering all the deterrent properties of a bunch of lace doilies. But it was he who changed the mood at the start of the second period, first kicking a long clearance that Neil Back knocked on, and then, barely a minute later, looping round the right-side cover with Jenkins's floated pass in his hands, to score the try that gave Jenkins the chance to bring Wales level for the first time. For the rest of the match, Howarth's catching, kicking and running were of inspirational quality.

Two Wilkinson penalties gave England a six-point lead which lasted from the 54th to the 83rd minute, a period of feverish rugby in which moments of brilliance from both sides were mixed with equally remarkable blunders and fumbles. For once, the mistakes did nothing to spoil the match as a spectacle. In fact the more the Welsh gave the ball away, the more determined they seemed to atone for their errors.

The nerve-shredding climax meant that next year, when they come to tear Wembley Stadium down, the readiest market for pieces of the old place will surely be in Wales. Every clubhouse in the principality should have a shard of stone or a mound of soil, preserved above the bar like pieces of the true cross, as a memento of the day when all the tribulations and humiliations of the recent past were most gloriously swept away.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
News
i100
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor