Martin Johnson never has been the type to come over all emotional after a victory, particularly one that has earned him nothing yet but a bit of local pride over a neighbour. So it was last night when he cautiously welcomed England's first Six Nations triumph in Cardiff since he, himself, was the captain way back in 2003.
"I am happy with the win as that's what we came here for," said Johnson. "We have not won away from home for a while in the Six Nations so it's good. But if we play badly next week against Italy what would that feel like? So we have to keep going and keep improving and the great thing is that there is a lot we can improve on."
Johnson was annoyed at Wales being allowed to almost come back from a 14-point deficit. "We've got to learn how not to let teams get out of jail," he said. "We left some chances out there but that composure is getting there, game on game."
Johnson paid tribute to the performance of the man-of-the-match Toby Flood, who kept his composure admirably to kick five out of five. The No 10 also created the first try in a near faultless performance. "Toby is a very smart guy," said Johnson. "He wants to get better and learn. He did a great job, a fantastic job overall and we have Jonny there as well. You can see them getting better week on week."
The build-up to the game had been dominated by the comments the Wales coach, Warren Gatland, had made about England hooker Dylan Hartley, in which he questioned the hooker's temperament. But Hartley was assured throughout and Johnson praised the way his side had coped with the heated atmosphere.
"They did not rise to any bait in the last 10 days," said Johnson. "They had a good excitement about coming here and they were relaxed, almost too relaxed for my liking."
Predictably enough Gatland tried to make light of his remarks . "I was just trying to get the publicity for a book I'm writing," he joked. "Look, I made a couple of comments out of frustration at us losing players from our squad through an incident [in which the scrum-half Richie Rees was suspended for gouging Hartley]. But he is a quality player and I have said that in a few interviews since. Their lineout went well and it was a good competitive performance from him."
Gatland was not downbeat despite his side extending their winless run to eight. "Someone had to lose and unfortunately that was us, but I can't fault the effort of the players – they tried really hard," he said. "We are disappointed but it was a good, hard, physical Test match. I don't think there was a huge amount between the sides. I thought at times we were fantastic and we played a good off-loading game and caused England problems."
The Kiwi put the defeat down to Wales's inability to capitalise on Louis Deacon's yellow card in the first half. "It was 3-3 during that spell and in that period we were guilty of kicking the ball away on a couple of occasions," he said. "Then with the yellow we had we held on for nine minutes and they scored a try in the last minute of it. They took their opportunity during the yellow card and we didn't take ours."
Where Wales go from here is to Murrayfield for an ominous examination against a Scotland side who ran them so close last year. The fear in the Welsh camp is that they will be doing so without Jonathan Davies. The centre is likely to be cited for his trip on Chris Ashton which went unsighted by the referee, Alain Rolland.Reuse content