Welsh second best to a second team

Wales 9 England 43
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It is as well England left their best team at home. Their so-called second XV inflicted upon Wales a crushing and humiliating defeat here yesterday that leaves the game in the Principality up the Taff without a paddle.

Wales have become accustomed to some fearful beatings at the hands of the English, but this was different. Clive Woodward knew he could rest his élite and still come up smelling of roses. With the incentive for some of his players, if not all, of a flight to Australia for the World Cup in October, England's reserves destroyed Wales by three goals, two tries, three penalties and a dropped goal to three penalties.

It was England's 14th successive Test victory and their 10th in the last 11 matches between these countries, and levelled at 49 wins a piece the 123-year series.

Wales, whitewashed in the last Six Nations, lost their 11th match on the trot in a hopeless and dispiriting fashion that leaves their World Cup preparations in disarray. Their last win, hard-earned at that, was against Canada, the side they meet in their Melbourne opener, 10 months ago.

The embarrassment for Steve Hansen, the Wales coach, was compounded by his decision to play what he regarded as his strongest team. Heaven help him and his squad. Hansen blew his top on the eve of the match when he was asked, for the umpteenth time, if a win here was more important than the performance. Suspecting he was on a hiding to nothing, he replied with a string of expletives.

The sponsor of Wales is a company called Rockport, but rock bottom was reached yesterday. That Wales did not perform is not entirely down to Hansen, but he has to take the lion's share of responsibility for a team that long ago lost the innate skills that made them special, but now no longer even play with any degree of passion.

That belonged to an England side that did not contain a single member of the team that beat Australia in Melbourne eight weeks ago. Wales at least held England, the full metal jacket version, to 26-9 here in February. Yesterday, they were smashed by a pack featuring four British Lions. Woodward is spoilt for choice; Hansen has none, other than perhaps to follow his fellow New Zealander, Graham Henry, in giving it all up as a bad job.

The first half was more one-sided than a score of 16-9 suggests. England dominated possession and threatened to score more than a single try, from Lewis Moody. The Leicester flanker had already squandered a try-scoring chance following a move of considerable skill, pace and vision. It was merely a taster.

England's pressure earned them numerous penalties and when they put one into the right corner in the 24th minute the red rose pack ploughed over the line where, despite the presence of Martyn Williams and Gareth Cooper, Moody managed to plant the ball.

Alex King's two penalties and a drop goal to Stephen Jones' three penalties gave England a seven-point advantage at the interval. The only down side for King, who made some telling breaks against a hapless back row, was his goal-kicking. He missed five penalties, three at the beginning of the second half, as the Welsh scrum was put through the mangle. But it was a King thrust in the 55th minute that led to a try for Dan Luger, even if a knock-on by Jamie Noon went unnoticed.

It was no surprise that Wales, who had been compelled to do an awful lot of tackling from the outset, conceded 27 points in 25 minutes of one-way traffic. Moody, one of several players who have virtually booked their place in England's World Cup squad, would have had a second try but for the ball beating him in the in-goal area. No matter. From the scrum Joe Worsley, whose strength and fitness epitomised the one-sided contest, brushed off Colin Charvis to crash over.

After King had limped off, England rammed home their superiority with further tries from Stuart Abbott and Dorian West. The first was from a slick three-quarter move, the second from an unstoppable drive which left the Welsh pack in ruins. The annihilation was complete. Long before the end the ugly booing of King's kicks at goal was replaced by the red rose hymn of 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'. It was the final insult.

"We've had some bad days and this was one of the worst, but I'm not going until someone decides I have to go," Hansen said. "I have a job to do and I'm not going to curl up and die."

Wales 9 England 43
Tries: Moody, Luger, Worsley, Abbott, West
Cons: King 2, Walder
Pens: S Jones 3; Pens: King 3
Drops: King

Half-time: 9-16 Attendance: 60,000

Wales: R Williams (Cardiff); M Jones (Llanelli), M Taylor (Llanelli), S Parker (Celtic Warriors), G Thomas (Warriors); S Jones (Llanelli, capt), G Cooper (Warriors); I Thomas (Llanelli), R McBryde (Llanelli), G Jenkins (Warriors), R Sidoli (Warriors), C Wyatt (Llanelli), C Charvis (unattached), M Williams (Cardiff), D Jones (Llanelli). Replacements: G Williams (Cardiff) for McBryde, 61; A Jones (Neath-Swansea) for Jenkins, 72; J Thomas (Neath-Swansea) for Wyatt, 63; G Thomas (Neath-Swansea) for D Jones, 72.

England: D Scarbrough (Leeds); J Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester), J Noon (Newcastle), S Abbott (Wasps), D Luger (Perpignan); A King (Wasps), A Gomarsall (Gloucester); J Leonard (Harlequins, capt), M Regan (Leeds), J White (Leicester), D Grewcock (Bath), S Shaw (Wasps), M Corry (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps), L Moody (Tigers). Replacements: D West (Leicester) for Regan, 37; W Green (Wasps) for White, 72; A Sanderson (Sale) for Moody, 62; D Walder (Newcastle) for King, 71; O Smith (Leicester) for Luger, 56.

Referee: P Deluca (Argentina).