Mike Ruddock, the Wales coach, had ventured beforehand that the pressure on England, who had a wretched Six Nations last season, losing to Wales in the opening round in Cardiff, could work for them or against them. It worked against Wales, who made a real match of it for an hour before the Thames Barrier opened and they were reduced to driftwood. It was like watching heavy artillery against light infantry.
"This was certainly a better start than last season," Martin Corry, the England captain, said afterwards. "We have a springboard to move forward. We may not be the finished article but we've set the tone." Indeed they have, but Corry also had to put up with the spectre of his predecessor not only appearing, twice, but behaving like some sort of talisman. Lawrence Dallaglio capped his return with a typical try, although he only had Stephen Jones to beat as he drove from a dominant scrum and the defender was also bemused by the presence of the referee, Paul Honiss. Had Honiss been wearing white he could have penalised himself for "crossing".
Corry could only applaud from the touchline as England's replacements ran riot. Matt Dawson came on for Harry Ellis, knocked the ball out of Michael Owen's hands and scampered away for the try, his 16th for England and one of his easiest. Honiss missed the knock-on.
England had begun to pull clear when Mike Tindall, exploiting a huge overlap and with Wales down to 14 men, scored their third try. When Dallaglio replaced Corry after 65 minutes, the captaincy went not to the Wasp but Tindall. All in all this could not have worked out much better for Andy Robinson as the heavyweights he introduced off the bench all landed blows against an opponent already on the ropes.
"It was always our intention to make an impact off the bench," Robinson said. There was a massive difference here. England had a bench made of finest oak; Wales, already unrecognisable from the team who allowed them to walk on the Taff last year, were looking at balsawood. "They put us to the sword," Ruddock said. Owain Glyndwr would be turning in his grave.
There was so much blood spilt in the opening minutes it was as well Wales were wearing red. When Joe Worsley and Matthew Watkins clashed heads they both went off to stem the claret, and Ian Gough joined them.
It wasn't foul, just fast and furious. Worsley's departure brought on Dallaglio, to tremendous acclaim. The former England captain was on for just six minutes - there would be a second coming in the second half - before Worsley returned, and no sooner had he done so than England took the lead. Charlie Hodgson - Champagne Charlie as he is now known around these parts - missed out Tindall and created enough space for Jamie Noon to offload to Mark Cueto, who had come into midfield from his wing. The Sale flyer finished brilliantly.
This was just the start England needed, although in the first half they were not allowed to rest on their bed of roses. Wales came close to scoring and were denied first by Josh Lewsey and then Ben Cohen. For all Wales's flair and intent, they scored one try, England six.
After Stephen Jones and Hodgson had exchanged penalties, England resorted to the blunderbuss rather than the rapier for try No 2, setting up a driving maul, and the beneficiary was Lewis Moody. His ninth try for his country gave them a 15-3 lead, but that became 15-10 after 33 minutes when Dwayne Peel shot through a gap as wide as the Cheddar Gorge from a line-out and Martyn Williams was in support to finish it off. This would be a sweet-bitter moment for the flanker and virtually the end of Welsh resistance.
Williams received a yellow card when he was adjudged to have obstructed Moody, who was chasing a kick ahead. Williams had his back to the England flanker who made a meal of the whole thing. The result was a penalty for Hodgson and the Welsh, in urgent need of reinforcements, were down to 14 men. It was the end of the 2005 Grand Slam champions, who have not only lost that title but any pretence to the Triple Crown. For England, the reverse is true.
They made a number of errors, forced and unforced, but they finished in a style and with a purpose that Robinson had demanded. Above all, Robinson wanted a victory at any cost.
He got a lot more than that - this time he cannot complain about a southern-hemisphere referee - as Wales completely lost their way in the second half. They won a lot more possession than had been anticipated but increasingly could not put it to any use. The weight of the England challenge meant that Wales turned over possession almost at Red Rose will. As Corry said, England may not yet be the finished article but they have a hell of a lot going for them.Reuse content