Alun Wyn Jones may have tripped Dylan Hartley in the 34th minute, but it was his own team who went flying into the turf. Has a yellow card ever been so costly? Have 17 points ever been given away by such numb-skulled recklessness?
The answers across the Principality last night were no and no. England may have been celebrating a first Six Nations win over their neighbours in four years but their euphoria owed more to a lock's stupidity than any spectacular improvement. Perhaps his country will now rename him Alun "Lose" Jones.
Warren Gatland's response bordered on the vicious. "We lost the game because of it," said the coach. "Shaun Edwards [the defence coach] said to him in the dressing room, 'I hope you never do anything like that again in your career.' It was stupid." When asked if it would put the Lion's spot in jeopardy against Scotland, Gatland said: "Sure, if it cost us the game we might need to look at it."
Is that harsh, considering Wales were below average for a good hour? Probably. Although when Jones, a law student of all things, plays back the tapes he will surely consider the guilty verdict to be just. There was absolutely no need to stick out his leg when Hartley picked up the ball close to the fringe of a ruck. Two converted tries and a penalty followed. "It was game over," said Gatland.
England will be thankful for it and in many ways so should be the neutral. It opened up a game which had threatened to shut up shop. The first 30 minutes were on the dreary side of dull. If it was an arm wrestle for the purists, then the purists can keep it.
It wasn't pretty. Ugly things can be entertaining, but not this first half. To be fair the action did go this way and that. But the action happened up in the sky. There were fears coming into this tournament that the laws, the refs – blame who you will – were killing the spectacle. Well, in the opening spell the spectacle was crushed to smithereens, under boots.
Of course, rugby is not as simple as all that and the forwards in white shirts could not give a damn about marks for artistic impression. England starved the Welsh and the scraps the visitors did try to convert into something more meaty hardly merited a burp. The problem was, England's ability to create was pathetically moribund. All those poor people who had paid to watch the game in 3D should have removed their glasses. They had over-subscribed by two dimensions.
But then a game threatened to break out. Jones produced his moment of madness and England had the numbers to exploit it. They were still unable to turn overlaps into points and there was one staggering passage when they had four men on two and those two happened to be props. A try in the corner? No, one under the posts on the brink of half-time.
At least there were some runs to cheer after the interval. Danny Care did not enjoy a memorable afternoon, apart from his try. The scrum-half took it well, but the contribution of Simon Shaw should not be underestimated. He took out Gareth Williams, who would have been there to stop Care's charge. It was one of union's classic "silent" assists.
There was no devaluing James Hook's jinking, jiving score that put Wales within sight of another glorious Twickenham win. It wasn't enough, though, and so the focus switched to Jones. It was the poor man's David Beckham moment. Everybody knows what happened to him.Reuse content