Like a toy soldier wilting under the focused glare of a magnifying glass, initial Welsh resistance melted into complete disintegration as England ran in four second half tries to emerge 47-13 victors at Twickenham.
The power of England’s tight five has been hyped following the pulping of Matt Dunning late last year, but today the shock and awe promised in the British press was reflected by on-field performance.
The Welsh are defending Six Nations champions, but appeared no more than second-tier scrappers in a day in which the customary fire and brimstone kept them competitive for 40 minutes, but never looked like delivering the victory.
After flanker Martyn Williams’ dismissal in the 54th minute, the resistance upfront to England’s forward onslaught that crumbled gradually from the opening minutes onwards suffered the mortal blow, and the four tries conceded in the final quarter reflected a side whose quality is simply not of the standard to trouble England and France in this year’s competition.
Power was the watchword, both in the incisiveness of the much-maligned midfield of Jamie Noon and Mike Tindall, and in the efficient manner in which English assumed dominance in contact and in set pieces.
Noon’s half-break and offload to winger Mark Cueto in the 14th minute ensured momentum remained with the home side from early on, and despite a trademark try from a lineout maul being cancelled out by Williams after a clever break from scrumhalf Dwayne Peel, England appeared comfortable at halftime – even if that dominace was not reflected on the scoreboard.
Early penalty exchanges in the second half were the precursor to the demolition that followed. The 64th minute effort by Mike Tindall rounded off the finest move of the game, in which the decision making of centre partner Noon in particular was impressive.
Old guard substitutes Lawrence Dallaglio (in the 72nd) and Matt Dawson (in the 75th) profited from immense scrums to dart from close range and ensure there would be no late Welsh spark.
Replacement wing Tom Voyce applied the finishing touches on full time.
Tries: Mark Cueto, Lewis Moody, Mike Tindall, Lawrence Dallaglio, Matt Dawson and Tom Voyce
Cons: Charlie Hodgson 3 and Andy Goode
Pens: Hodgson 3
Try: Martyn Williams
Con: Stephen Jones
Pens: Jones 2
** Sinbin: Williams (54th minute)