Rugby Union: White-hot England run riot

Five Nations' Championship: Try, try and try again as humiliated Wales succumb to a record onslaught; England 60 Wales 26 Tries: Rees 2, Back, Bracken Tries: Bateman 2, Thomas Dallaglio, Healey Gibbs Greenwo od, Dawson Cons: Jenkins 3 Cons: Grayson 7 Pen: Grayson 2Half-time: 34- 12 Attendance: 75,000
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The Independent Online
THIS was a ruthless, pitiless destruction of a once proud rugby nation. In breaking all records in fixtures between the two countries, England also broke Welsh hearts. But for Welshmen weeping in despair at this lamentable attempt to mount a serious challenge to England's irresistible supremacy, the one tiny consolation is that the defeat could have been much worse. Long before the end, when the contest had descended into farce, England's profligacy cost them at least half a dozen tries.

This had the unfortunate effect of devaluing the eight tries they did score, which was grossly unfair. Some of them were superb examples of sustained fluency, speed and skill and would have mesmerised the stoutest of defences. But as the Red Sea opened up time and again in front of England'shordes, it was obvious that this Welsh defence was far below the standard required at international level.

The only record which Wales did not concede was their biggest defeat - that was inflicted upon them eight years ago by Australia, after which their coach John Ryan resigned. Whether or not Kevin Bowring will feel impelled to follow his example remains to be seen.

The inescapable truth is that this was a humiliation on a grand scale and it offered a chilling peek into the future because if Wales are the best of the rest in this increasingly uncompetitive tournament then the prospects for its continuing good health are bleak indeed.

For England, however, it is the present that matters. With no hiding place for them this time, they flaunted everything they had. They ran with pace, conviction and supreme confidence and their forwards were masters in all departments. Their scrummage, savaged after the tameness of their resistance against France, pushed the Welsh all round the field and even had enough muscle to heave them over their own goal-line for Lawrence Dallaglio to touch down.

If the forwards, as they must, provided the immovable foundations, England's performance was embodied by young Matt Perry at full-back. Returning to the side after his omission two weeks ago in Paris, he was understandably nervous and, in his early touches, ominously tentative. Sensing this, the Welsh saw a weakness that they could exploit and having made him their prime target focused their attacks on him.

A witheringly accurate Garryowen hoisted by Arwel Thomas exposed him to the brutish charge of Scott Gibbs following up with deadly intent. The ball ricocheted off Perry's shoulder and Allan Bateman scored the first try of the match. But Perry is made of the right stuff. He took another buffeting a few minutes later but, unfazed, emerged to run the ball back at the Welsh in thrilling style. From then on he was in his element, darting, dodging and showing the guile and instinctive cunning which once was the hallmark of the great Welsh backs of the past.

If the result came as no surprise - the bookies had made England 7-1 on favourites to win - its margin and manner were breathtaking. After 27 minutes of the first half, Wales, if not comfortably ahead, were comfortingly in control. A weaving run down the left by Gareth Thomas, who, in a foray reminiscent of Andy Hancock's effort against Scotland many years ago, broke through at least seven tackles and covered more than 70 yards, ended with the ball being recycled for Bateman to score his second try.

In reply, England had managed only two penalties kicked by Paul Grayson, but in the 28th minute the game and the fortunes of the two sides were transformed. England's scrummage applied the squeeze and when the ball reached Will Greenwood, the Leicester centre, with a beautifully concealed inside flick, sent David Rees streaking over.

In the next 12 giddy minutes England completed Wales's destruction. Neil Back was driven over from a classic line-out take by Garath Archer and following more bewitching midfield play Kyran Bracken broke through the bedraggled Welsh defence. At this point, the Welsh back row was in the "absent friends" category. The pushover try came next before the half- time whistle saved Wales from further punishment.

Clive Woodward's team talk very probably went along the lines that if England could score 28 points in 12 minutes so could Wales. But we are talking chalk and cheese here and before the second half was 10 minutes old, the combative and determined Rees had scored his second try.

By this time Woodward felt sufficiently relaxed to introduce fresh legs and replaced three of his pack - Hill, the rejuvenated Johnson and young Phil Vickery, who can take enormous pride from his first appearance in an England shirt - with Tony Diprose, Danny Grewcock and Darren Garforth. The faces changed but there was no reduction in England's relentless enthusiasm for scoring points.

With every try, Grayson's kicking became crisper and more accurate. Before he went off to be replaced by Mike Catt he had landed seven conversions from seven tries.

Austin Healey, Greenwood and, most audaciously of all, Matt Dawson, with a run which appeared to beat the entire Welsh XV twice, scored to complete the annihilation. However, tries by Gareth Thomas and the admirable Scott Gibbs for Wales were applauded with a politeness which contained more than a hint of embarrassment.

Dignity in defeat is the very least that one can expect, but as the playthings of England yesterday, Wales were denied even that.

England: M Perry (Bath); D Rees (Sale), W Greenwood (Leicester), J Guscott (Bath), A Healey (Leicester); P Grayson (Northampton), K Bracken (Saracens); J Leonard (Harlequins), R Cockerill (Leicester), P Vickery (Gloucester), M Johnson (Leicester), G Archer (Newcastle), L Dallaglio (Wasps, capt), R Hill (Saracens), N Back (Leicester). Replacements: T Diprose (Saracens) for Hill, 56; D Grewcock (Saracens) for Johnson, 56;, D Garforth (Leicester) for Vickery, 56; M Dawson (Northampton) for Bracken, 70; P de Glanville (Bath) for Greenwood, 70; M Catt (Bath) for Grayson, 70.

Wales: N Jenkins (Pontypridd); G Thomas (Cardiff), A Bateman (Richmond), S Gibbs (Swansea), N Walker (Cardiff); A Thomas (Swansea), R Howley (Cardiff, capt); A Lewis (Cardiff), B Williams (Richmond), D Young (Cardiff), G Llewellyn (Harlequins), M Voyle (Llanelli), C Charvis (Swansea), S Quinnell (Richmond), M Williams (Pontypridd). Replacements: W Proctor (Llanelli) for Walker, 3; R Appleyard (Swansea) for Quinnell, 49; J Humphreys (Cardiff) for B Williams, 66; L Davies (Cardiff) for Bateman, 66; C Stephens (Bridgend) for Voyle, 73; L Mustoe (Cardiff) for Lewis, 73.

Referee: C Hawke (New Zealand).

How they stand

P W D L F A Pts

France 2 2 0 0 75 33 4

England 2 1 0 1 77 50 2

Scotland 2 1 0 1 33 67 2

Ireland 1 0 0 1 16 17 0

Wales 1 0 0 1 26 60 0

Remaining fixtures: 7 March: Wales v Scotland, France v Ireland. 21 March: Ireland v Wales. 22 March: Scotland v England. 4 April: England v Ireland. 5 April: Wales v France.

*Wales play home matches at Wembley

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