Will the wizard, Rob the resurgent

Click to follow
The Independent Online

All possession, all territory, but no points was the story for Wales in the first 15 minutes. After that, it was England's day.

All possession, all territory, but no points was the story for Wales in the first 15 minutes. After that, it was England's day.

The visitors were superior in every department. They defended as a unit, attacked as one and thoroughly deserved their emphatic victory.

There might have been a suspicion of a forward pass for Will Greenwood's first try, but it would be ridiculous to nit-pick over the performance. In truth, by the time the Harlequins centre had crossed the line for the second time, the game was all but won for the visitors.

I am pleased for Greenwood. He has had a difficult time, but anyone who scores a hat-trick at international level must be back to their best.

Rob Howley's wonderful solo try in the first half showed us exactly why he is one of the favourites for the Lions' jersey in the summer tour of Australia. His dummy was excellent and his angle of running even better. It was a top-notch.

Howley it was again who made Scott Quinnell's late try and Wales can be grateful to both of them for keeping the side ticking over. Wales could so easily have collapsed completely, but it is to their credit that they never stopped trying until the final whistle.

Typically, though, anything a Welshman could do yesterday, an Englishman could then do better. Matt Dawson's brace of tries, particularly the second when he double-dummied the Wales full-back, was sublime. The England scrum-half is in the form of his life and will be pushing Howley hard for the No 9 shirt in the summer.

The difference in the way the two teams played was significant. England's players looked confident and hungry. Their Welsh counterparts, meanwhile, seemed nervous and confused. For long periods, Wales were unable to make any headway, as they attempted to pierce the England defence. Then, on the few occasions when the home side did break through the gain line, they simply ran out of attacking ideas.

We should not dwell too long on Wales' performance. This was England's day and they thoroughly deserved the win. Clive Woodward, the head coach, has got them ticking nicely now and they are a formidable unit.

What impressed me most yesterday was the fact they were so professional. The performance was highly polished in every department and I fancy them to go on to win the tournament. They're extremely clinical. They attack well, defend smartly and look better than ever. They will take some stopping from now on in.

I must reserve a special mention for Neil Jenkins. The Wales stand-off had a difficult day with the boot but still managed to score the five points which took his career tally to 1,000. Reaching that landmark is a phenomenal achievement.

If he had got those points at club level it would have been impressive enough, but the fact that he has done it on the international stage is frankly incredible. Neil must now be regarded as one of the great figures of Welsh rugby.

Wales have got to regroup and try to find some pace in the side. They go to Scotland next and must ensure they don't have another day when they produce nothing but slow ball.

England, in contrast, were full of running and ideas. The way they spread the ball so quickly was a revelation and they have set the standards which the other teams must try to emulate.

The most worrying thing for their opponents is that England wasted countless chances. Had they been ruthlessly clinical, England could have won by 50 or 60 points.

Wales and England play in the northern hemisphere's premier tournament. Yesterday, though, England were from a different world.

Comments