England, believe it or not, had rehearsed for playing with 14 men, such is their familiarity with the number. It was a wise precaution, but in the end they suffered yet another defeat. Wales, the Six Nations favourites, made it two wins out of two in the championship and, for the first time in the modern format, three out of three against the English.
It was by no means as one-sided as many observers thought it would be but few here could care less. England made it very uncomfortable for Wales and despite the negativity of last week's lame win over Italy at Twickenham they managed to outscore their hosts by two tries to one.
On the other hand Wales kicked a load of penalties as England once again imploded. Wales deserved their triumph but their opponents will be kicking themselves for not keeping their heads.
Wales had suffered some serious hammerings, home and away, against England when Martin Johnson was ruling the roost on the pitch. As a captain Johnson never lost against Wales in Cardiff, an extraordinary record. In his first year as manager he has an odd taste in his mouth. He had exhorted England to fight and silence the Welsh choirs. He partly succeeded but that will be of no comfort.
Warren Gatland, Johnson's counterpart, had unwisely taunted the Red Rose brigade about their lack of imagination. He should know not to crow until the 80th minute. Even so, in his 13th match in charge this was his eighth successive Six Nations victory.
By the seventh minute Steve Borthwick, the England captain, was warned by the referee Jonathan Kaplan to keep his forwards to the straight and narrow. Lo and behold, Mike Tindall was sent to the sin bin for killing the ball and Stephen Jones kicked his second penalty to make it 6-0. His first came in the third minute when Lee Mears was blatantly offside as Wales attacked the English line from a few yards out.
A man short, England soon fell further behind when Phil Vickery was penalised for collapsing a scrum and Leigh Halfpenny – the three wood in distance to Jones's five iron – landed the longer kick.
Wales suddenly found that the tables had turned. England enjoyed a Red Rose patch and by half-time they had made it 9-8 and the stadium was eerily quiet. England, hammered by the southern hemisphere heavyweights in the autumn and remarkably negative in the win over Italy at Twickenham last week, believed they were in a position to win the match.
"We had opportunities to take the game," Johnson said. "Early on, the penalty count against us was 5-0 and we were away from home and we had to overcome that as well. I was very proud of their effort but we let a Test match slip by." It was partly self-inflicted. England not only had Tindall in the bin but, unbelievably, Andy Goode followed him.
There was a dramatic swing in England's favour in the second quarter of the first half when excellent work by Riki Flutey and Mark Cueto, who slipped an instant inside pass to Goode, resulted in a kick ahead. It was a perfectly judged chip by the stand-off for it enabled Paul Sackey to beat Mark Jones to the line in the race for the touchdown. Sackey won hands down.
That was in the 23rd minute, and six minutes later Goode dropped an excellent goal from long range and out on the left. Some supporters might have thought they were back at Welford Road, as, of course, would Johnno.
No sooner had the second half begun than Wales were back in control. Jamie Roberts made a half break down the right wing and when he was tackled by Goode the stand-off did what he was taught to do at Leicester – kill the ball on the wrong side. Goode went to the sin bin, Jones kicked the penalty and Wales were 12-8 in front. It was England's eighth yellow card in their last three games.
It got better for Wales when Halfpenny scored their try three-and-a-half minutes into the second half, having scored his first last week in the win over Scotland. That makes him a full penny. After Delon Armitage had missed a long kick at goal by a mile, Jones kicked another for 20-8.
Toby Flood came on for Goode, strangely, and England were back in it when Armitage (pictured left), with a swerve and a change of pace, split Wales's defence. The Dragonhood have conceded three tries in two games, one more than in their Grand Slam last season.
Wales's win has brought the series to 53 apiece against England, with 12 matches drawn. But Wales are two- thirds of the way to the Triple Crown.
MAN FOR MAN MARKING, BY MARTIN PENGELLY
Lee Byrne 6/10
The best player in the world, according to Jeremy Guscott. Jury's out on that one, but he did provide 80 minutes' solid evidence to support his case for a Lions place. Has 'roar potential', if you must. Did to Armitage what Geoff Cross did to him, in the air, last week. Got away with it.
Leigh Halfpenny 7/10
Got a boot on him as well asa step – he should provide plenty of great feats in a long career to come. Halfpenny, full value. Looked likely to cash in at any time and did in the second half from Byrne's neat, if forward-ish pass.
Tom Shanklin 6/10
Slightly less subtle than his centre partner and slightly less big too, but equally industrious. Got on the end of one lovely little dink from Stephen Jones, before gettinga right donk from Tindall. Fortunately, those two enjoy that kind of thing.
Jamie Roberts 6/10
Has a subtle-ish touch for a big man, some of the time – eg: when not being charged down. Also capable of driving like another lock, which forwards appreciate, if the general public might not.
Mark Jones 6/10
Filling in for Shane Williams, a man so popular they sculpt tributes to him in the shape of life-sized pies. Like you do. Jones ignored the hype and did his thankless task well enough in the circumstances.
Stephen Jones 8/10
The usual, engaging displayof odd, crablike, scuttling subtleties and all the basics, solidly done. Even made a quick break in the second as Wales began to take control and he had, in general, a belter of a second half. Kicked a vital penalty too, to take his side eight points out in front.
Mike Phillips 6/10
Sharp for a big-ish scrum-half and gets on with it sharpish in the big moments - a chip, a dart, a pass. Perhaps his service is a little slow, though, and even erratic. A Lions contender, but not the cert some make him.
Gethin Jenkins 6/10
Got back to tackle Flutey at one point, which wasn't bad for a big old prop. Has always been mobile, though, and has Lions previous. Also part of a defensive effort by the Welsh pack which was far more canny than that put in by the English, eg: they conceded fewer penalties by far.
Matthew Rees 6/10
Engagingly beserk as ever around the field and hit his line-outs pretty well too. Hooker's an interesting one for those thinking about the Lions. Watch this face, then...
Adam Jones 6/10
Scrums went well enough and his pass, on the pirouette, for Halfpenny's try was a lovely little bit of skill by a big man. Good stuff all round.
Ian Gough 6/10
It's not only the Gough that carries you off... but the big lock did a lot of the unglamorous, hard work which helped hammer a lot of nails into England's coffin. Did for Hartley late on.
Alun-Wyn Jones 7/10
Looked like he might have popped an artery during the anthems - which would atleast have saved England a beasting. Won a lot of line-out ball and bullocked about like
a good 'un. A live Lions contender, which is stating the obvious somewhat, what?
Ryan Jones 7/10
Less chance to do the visible stuff when he's at six and Powell is huffing and puffing and blowing houses down one place along the back row, but when he did get the ball in his mitts he made it tell. Another Welsh forward with good hands, too. Moved across to No 8 when Powell went off.
Andy Powell 6/10
All legs and arms and flapping hair and flying sweat when he's on the charge, which is most of the time. Must be an utter nightmare to tackle. Sometimes all that bluster gets a bit much and produces a bit less for his team. Only sometimes though.
Martyn Williams 6/10
Had another old head to deal with for once, in Worsley, and he didn't have it easy by any means. Fortunately he is the best northern-hemisphere No 7, by a mile, and that means he is used to scrapping for the ball by any means necessary. Which, of course, he did.
Dafydd Jones 5/10 on for Powell, who had been, relatively, neutralised.
Huw Bennett 5/10 On for Rees, no doubt challenged to be equally alarmingly energetic.
Dwayne Peel 5/10 On for Phillips late in the day.
Delon Armitage 6/10
Took his first catch and took a long drop-goal. Ah. Isn't afraid to try things. Straws... clutching... then left a couple of Wales defenders scrabbling; then was turned over for Halfpenny's try; then dummied and scored a beauty of his own.
Paul Sackey 6/10
Goode used him as a crash-baller and he got crashed, thoroughly, back whence he came. That was a bit dull. His try, chasing down Goode's kick, was much better.
Mike Tindall 6/10
The one who got the yellow card that was coming from the first whistle - or the first shrill whistle, make it. Looked askance, unsurprisingly, but them's the breaks in this uniquely frustrating sport.
Riki Flutey 6/10
Nice running to set up Sackey's try, but maybe he's a little small at this level? Certainly he looked it next to, or squaring up to, the two monsters in the Wales centre shirts, Roberts and Shanklin. Has a tendency to run out of the line a bit, too.
Mark Cueto 6/10
Funny that this England side, called pedestrian by every man and his dog in the media, should actually have two fine try-scorers on the flanks.
Andy Goode 6/10
First two tackles were missed as Shanklin, then Stephen Jones went past, the second miss setting up a first penalty. Then he settled and made Sackey's try. The conversion wobbled like a drunk, but so did a successful drop goal. Goode and Badde, like the tackle he made on Halfpenny and the decision he then made to kill the ball for a yellow.
Harry Ellis 6/10
Beat Williams to one on the floor early on, which isn't bad going for an openside, never mind a No 9. Has taken his chance, after Danny Care didn't take care on a slippy step, very well.
Andrew Sheridan 6/10
Seemed to be getting something like parity against Adam Jones, the biggest forward on the field. Yes, the Welshman is bigger than Big Ted. A big effort.
Lee Mears 6/10
The smallest forward on the field dumped one of the biggest, Alun-Wyn Jones. Always nice to see.
Phil Vickery 6/10
Warned of dire consequences by Mr Kaplan, should he not push straight – north, instead of north by north-west? – he protested mistaken identity. Penalised, which was hardly a Hitchcockian surprise, Three points went on the board. A prop's life. Good hands for Armitage's try.
Steve Borthwick 6/10
Warned in the seventh minute that the next penalty - a fourth - would mean yellow for someone. Even in his beleaguered reign, that was quick.
Nick Kennedy 6/10
Line-outs were a decent battle with Jones and, to a lesser extent, the heftier Gough. Doesn't quite have the bulk to break up the cluttered bits around the breakdown, though, and isn't as quick as Croft, who replaced him.
James Haskell 6/10
Told to compete at the breakdown, no doubt, but good old Mr Kaplan, was also in no doubt about who to keep an eye on when the white shirts piled in. Is always there or thereabouts when penalties are being conceded or earned.
Nick Easter 6/10
Ryan Jones put in a couple of the kind of clever or inventive passes that are usually Easter's speciality, but the Englishman was too far busy in defence to get involved in such fancy-dannery. A heavyweight No8 – a "heavyeight", say?
Joe Worsley 8/10
In the side to tackle, tackle and then, when his head was ringing and his legs had turned to jelly, to tackle some more. Obviously, he did that and a shedload of work elsewhere. Seemed to tackle Jamie Roberts every time he had a run. And he had lots.
Toby Flood 5/10 On for Goode after the starter's sin-bin stint.
Tom Croft 5/10 On for Kennedy as a lightweight lock.
Luke Narraway 5/10 On for Haskell. Julian White 5/10 On for Vickery.
Mathew Tait 5/10 On for Sackey; no Gavin Henson to worry about.
Dylan Hartley 5/10 On for Mears; absolutely cabbaged by Gough.Reuse content