Wales scored two late tries to snatch an outrageous 26-19 victory over England at Twickenham – their first win at the English fortress in 20 years.
Leading 19-9, England made the unforgivable mistake of releasing the pressure in the final 30 minutes. Play grew progressively disjointed which suited the Dragons. When Wales levelled the scores through a converted Lee Byrne try in the 68th minute, the alarm bells were ringing.
A minute later, Iain Balshaw’s kick was charged down in midfield. The Welsh swarmed round the loose ball and it was Mike Phillips, the man who charged the kick, who scored in the corner.
Few would have predicted this result after England’s complete dominance in the first half. The Roses were as robust as ever at the tackle points, forcing turnovers and disrupting the Welsh halfbacks to an overwhelming degree. The set-pieces also went the way of the hosts, and even though Wales did exhibit the odd flash of brilliance they never had an adequate platform from which to launch a sustained attack. They were also highly susceptible on the restart with England regathering each kick with consummate ease.
It was Jonny Wilkinson’s pin-point cross kick that sparked England’s try in the first half, with replacement winger Lesley ‘The Volcano’ Vanikolo plucking the ball from the air and flipping a clever inside pass to an unmarked Toby Flood. But from that moment, they failed to cash in on their opportunities and completely lost the plot when they returned in the second period.
James Hook was in fine touch for the Dragons, nailing four penalties and two touchline conversions. Hook also made the break that led to Byrne’s try and was well supported by the smart-stepping Gavin Henson throughout.
The victory is a dream start for new Wales coach Warren Gatland, who must have given some half-time pep talk to initiate this kind of result.
To make matters worse for the Poms, three players look to have suffered serious injury. David Strettle, Lewis Moody and Tom Rees all left the field early on, which meant lock Ben Kay had to shift to loose forward in the second half.
England - Try: Toby Flood. Conversion: Jonny Wilkinson. Penalties: Wilkinson (2). Drop-goal: Wilkinson.
Wales - Tries: Lee Byrne, Mike Phillips. Conversions: James Hook (2). Penalties: James Hook (4).