The Calvin Report: The mourning after the Six Nations nightmare

Stuart Lancaster's team lick their wounds after being eaten up and spat out by a more experienced and physical Wales

The venues and dates of England's Grand Slam calamities have the bleak clarity of tombstones in a war cemetery. Cardiff 2013 will acquire the resonance of Murrayfield in 1990 and 2000, Wembley in 1999, and Lansdowne Road in 2001 and 2011. The mourning will be prolonged, and the inquest painful.

The noise beneath the closed roof at the Millennium Stadium was supersonic, and the rugby was supercharged. It was impossible to think straight, futile to speak at anything less than a bellow. Somehow, amidst the bedlam, Wales retained the composure required to win another Six Nations title.

As their conquerors celebrated, and a fusillade of fireworks was detonated in a darkened arena, the England players formed a desolate circle and recoiled from the reality of their inadequacy. There were few consolations, and there must be no concessions. England were routed, brutally exposed by opponents driven by an undeniable sense of destiny.

Welsh victory wasn't about vengeance for the dispossessed, the victims of the decline of the great industries, like coal and steel. It wasn't an eco-friendly alternative to torching holiday homes. This was a definitive test of will, an investigation of the limits of physical and mental durability.

No city submits so completely to the street theatre which complements great sporting occasions. The centre of Cardiff was social carnage; a cloudburst 90 minutes before kick-off, legions of girls in skintight cocktail dresses. As the exultant hordes spilled on to sodden streets, oblivion beckoned.

They say Welsh history, before the Romans, was learned orally by the Druids on 15-year apprenticeships. When they sober up, the modern equivalents will be able to recite the names of yesterday's pivotal warriors: Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton, Gethin Jenkins, Leigh Halfpenny and Alex Cuthbert.

The day lacked the tribal bitterness of football occasions. There was no edge to the rivalry; the barbs were blunted by their underlying warmth. There was no segregation or suspicion, but in rugby terms it could not have been more serious. It was the type of challenge which exposes hidden fears and latent reserves of courage.

Wales made the sort of entrance which would have made a world heavyweight champion boxer blush. The tunnel was bathed in eerie red light, and pumped full of smoke, as Jenkins led his team out with measured tread. Everyone else suffered sensory overload. A dozen jets of flame radiated heat which could be felt at the back of the bottom tier of the stand. The Welsh anthems were luminous, even to those of us from the expensive side of the Severn Bridge toll booth. They placed into context the braying nonsense that is England's theme tune, 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' bellowed by a collection of currency traders from the Home Counties.

The primal scream which greeted the final whistle was the sound of nationhood; a chorus of pride, solidarity and hope fuelled by alcohol and adrenalin. Despite the ritual recycling of Phil Bennett's tirade against economic imperialism in the build-up, this was a crowd imbued with a passion that the anaemic politics of nationalism cannot match.

The Welsh have been seeking redress against the English ever since their defeat in the initial fixture, at Blackheath in February 1881, a month before the Welsh Rugby Union was formed. Wales failed to muster a point, and conceded seven goals, six tries and a dropped goal. The shame of surrender has been ingrained into the psyche of each and every player who has pulled on the scarlet jersey down the generations. England have much to ponder. Chris Ashton, creator of the Ash Splash, belly-flopped again. He tackled poorly and lacked impact. He will struggle to remain in a team which lacked experience in a match of manic intensity. The fact that the World Cup-winning side of 2003 was similarly fallible in Grand Slam showdowns will be of little compensation.

Signs of nervousness were portentous. Manu Tuilagi knocked on, with a clear run to the line beckoning early on. Wales scrummaged powerfully, defended manfully and kicked accurately. They counter-attacked with verve and instinct. The physical contest was captivating and summarised by one huge tackle by Jamie Roberts on Tuilagi.

The bruises will take weeks to heal. Chris Robshaw raged against the dying of the light and Mike Brown made a saving tap-tackle to prevent George North bullocking to the line. England were worn down punishingly. The Welsh back row was immense, and in Tipuric they have a potential British & Irish Lions captain. The crowd revelled in the drama, and the roof was nearly lifted off for Cuthbert's two tries.

The Millennium Stadium is a unique venue, and rugby has a unique resonance in Wales. Stuart Lancaster, to his credit, was respectful and realistic. "Rugby is a pretty simple game, when you come down to it," he said. "This was not about psychology. We didn't match their physicality." The words, delivered deadpan, had the ring of doom.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue
E L James's book Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

It's hard to understand why so many are buying it – but then best-selling was ever an inexact science, says DJ Taylor
Behind the scenes of the world's most experimental science labs

World's most experimental science labs

The photographer Daniel Stier has spent four years gaining access to some of the world's most curious scientific experiments
It's the stroke of champions - so why is the single-handed backhand on the way out?

Single-handed backhand: on the way out?

If today's young guns wish to elevate themselves to the heights of Sampras, Graf and Federer, it's time to fire up the most thrilling shot in tennis
HMS Saracen: Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled

HMS Saracen

Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'

7/7 bombings 10 years on

Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'