Wales played like kings at the Principality but defeat to England will take some getting over

If only Rob Howley's team had converted their brilliant play into points on the board, this could have been a most famous victory

It will take a while for Dan Biggar and his team-mates to come to terms with this result
It will take a while for Dan Biggar and his team-mates to come to terms with this result

Those wearing red began filing out just before the whistle was blown and though this was a match of the highest order – sport you simply did not want to end – it will be of no consolation to a nation which seemed to have delivered a blow to remember down the years that their players delivered like kings.

All that preceded Elliot Daly’s late try was testament to the character and talent of the Welsh side and ought to have been enough to see Wales home, though fine margins count for nothing in the final order. The Prinicipality Stadium was stunned.

Eddie Jones had done enough with his talk to light a Welsh fire. “Patronising” and “cocksure” the Welsh press described Jones’ week of talk about Wales when the day of the clash dawned. “So little respect,” they said, though that was just paper talk of course. The challenge for Rob Howley’s side was to articulate in their rugby a statement of what Wales really is all about and they did that, but the extent which they waited for George North’s fitness demonstrated how desperately they were relying on their prize assets. North’s name was even on team-sheets being distributed an hour out but it was a vain hope. He did not appear.

Elliott Daly's late try provided a dramatic finish and broke Welsh hearts in Cardiff

All told, by kick off it felt a very long way from the swagger of two years ago when the English were the subject of a heist in the Cardiff tunnel. A whipping boy on the wing, in North’s replacement Alex Cuthbert, and another one in the stand, in the figure of Rob Howley, an interim coach in who little hope seems to have been set.

But the old adage about his match representing “800 years of opposition shoehorned into 80 minutes of rugby” was never truer and Cardiff did not require a roof over its stadium to demonstrate that fact. It only took a break down in English play to ignite the place with the kind of warmth which the flamethrowers had cast into the freezing night when the teams ran out. The stadium burned.

There was the kind of English class on offer in the first 20 minutes to cause the 60,000 behind Wales to shudder: such rapid shipping of the ball that red shirts could not cut it off at source and the clever hands of George Ford, ripping the ball around in so very many ways.

The Principality Stadium buzzed and burned but ended the evening beaten

Yet the flying gumshield of Ross Moriarty told the story. It sailed through the night air after one of the early and myriad thumping tackles which, with the exception of a late tackle he was lucky to escape with, made this a fine night for him. Twice Wales broke down England and broke away and by the time the try came to send them ahead, the quiet man Rob Howley’s team were making one hell of a noise. To turn down two penalties and the points, as they did in the first half, was a signal of their ambition - perhaps blind ambition considering how close this was always destined to be.

The try came, then: a beautiful, diagonal dummy run from an exocet Scott Williams distracting an England defence and allow Liam Williams to open up an angle and deliver under the posts. But it was the way Wales restarted after the interval which suggested we might be about to witness something exceptional, which would bring the curtain down on England’s winning run. The vulnerability of the English back row that had been so talked about became manifest and when England swung back into the ascendancy, a brilliant read by Dan Biggar cut out a Ben Youngs pass deep in the Wales 22 and sent him racing away. Daly’s race back to make a recovering tackle was of the highest order.

When the dust has settled, Wales may reflect on those rejected penalties and how they did not turn 20 brilliant minutes at the start of the second half into points on the board. Precisely when the dust settles in Welsh minds remains to be seen. This will taking some getting over.

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