Jonathan Davies: Much better - now for a touch of finesse

Red Rose pack mighty, back three pacy, but work remains to be done in between

Sunday 05 February 2006 02:06

Nothing went right for Wales. They had the rough end of several dodgy decisions by the referee Paul Honiss, but although his judgement deserved to be the subject of many bar-room debates it did nothing to affect the result. In the end, England were rampant, and did not need the help they received towards this comprehensive victory.

Wales managed to keep their hopes alive in the first half and the 15-10 scoreline did not suggest that a big hammering was on the way. But England then stepped up their momentum, and the constant pressure being applied by their surging pack gradually wore Wales down; they just could not keep the floodgates closed.

It did not help that the Welsh flanker Martyn Williams was sin-binned early in the second half for obstructing Lewis Moody as he chased a kick. There was no doubt it was an offence, but a penalty kick was sufficient punishment. The yellow card was harsh, and although Wales conceded only three points in the first nine minutes of his absence they yielded Mike Tindall's try seconds before he returned.

Then again, Wales were probably fortunate they did not lose Robert Sidoli when he held Danny Grewcock back when he was trying to catch a Jamie Noon pass on the line. Not that I am sure he would have caught it.

The writing was on the wall after Tindall's try, and although Wales made several promising breaks they turned the ball over in good positions. If you keep doing that you are going to get nowhere. England still have some improving to do, but if they can add confidence and finesse they are going to be difficult to stop. Charlie Hodgson's goal-kicking was not quite up to international quality, but he is such a good footballer, and he seems to have made his peace with the Twickenham crowd.

The centres, Noon and Tindall, were solid, but have a lot of work to do. We saw plenty of encouraging play from those around them, however. Mark Cueto had an excellent game, as did Ben Cohen, who came from nowhere to stop Shane Williams from scoring a try at a crucial time. Tom Voyce did very well when he came on and deserved his try. The danger those three in particular can create will have a massive part to play in the rest of the Six Nations.

But it is in their pack that England have their real strength. We knew they were going to have a big part to play in this game but we didn't think they were going to be that impressively dominant. The forwards they kept bringing off the bench merely increased Wales's discomfort to breaking point.

Wales's priority is to get a Plan B. They attacked like we knew they would but England's defence was so efficient they had to resort to kicks ahead to break through the line. Ironically, the one time they should have kicked ahead they didn't. When Mark Jones sprinted through early on Hal Luscombe was screaming down the middle and would have been favourite to catch a kick, but Jones died with the ball and the chance was gone.

Wales need a few ball-carrying forwards and need a bit of variety to intersperse with their running game. Once your opponents have twigged you, a change of tactic is necessary.

But mostly they need the quick return of their absentees. A lack of strength in depth is always going to be a handicap against the likes of England and France.

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