Planet Rugby

Careless Welsh moments of madness

06th February 2010 11:32

Share:

Danny Care try v Wales

Danny Care crosses for England's second try

A ridiculous yellow card and a wayward pass were the margins that cost Wales dear in the Six Nations opener on Saturday, England winning 30-17.

Alun-Wyn Jones' pointless trip on Dylan Hartley five minutes before half-time was England's catalyst in what had been a tight game up until then. While he reflected on the importance of discipline in the sin-bin, England scored two tries. Wales nearly pulled the 17-point deficit back, only for Stephen Jones to throw a pass for Delon Armitage to intercept and set England away for the game-clinching try.

The Welsh are going to have to pick themselves up from this one. There'll probably be a little honesty session on Monday, followed by a swift call of 'get back to work', for a good deal of what they offered here was spot on.

Conversely, although England will no doubt be able to relax as they head into their second week, they'll also have to temper their glee with a little reality. With that much possession, England ought to have put the game away long before the final five minutes. Instead, had the pass Armitage intercepted gone to a Welsh hand, England could even have lost it. It was better than November, but it was not that good.

As if to illustrate the point: England had 74 per cent of the possession of the first ten minutes, but Wales had 67 per cent of the territory. Whatever England did made absolutely no headway at all. When Wales got the ball with their first two meaningful Martyn Williams broke the gain-line significantly both times - the second time ended with a cheeky chip that saw Shane Williams bundling Jonny Wilkinson into touch.

Balls that went to touch were also a problem for the Welsh, who lost no fewer than six line-outs on their own throw. That seems ludicrous for a team boasting the beanpole figure of Luke Charteris and a British and Irish Lion in Alun-Wyn Jones, but the throwing was out of kilter, Steve Borthwick and Simon Shaw were excellent and James Haskell and Lewis Moody were much better at mopping up the mess than their counterparts.

With James Hook and Stephen Jones unable to land four relatively long shots at goal between them, Welsh penalties were not really punitive measures, more irritants for the English. On the flip side, Jonny Wilkinson's punishing boot and England's superior set piece meant the Welsh were frequently under pressure in their own half.

Wilkinson controlled the game excellently, with his longer kicks close enough to the touchline to cause Lee Byrne all sorts of consternation, his high kicks delicately measured and his goal-kicking 100 per cent accurate. That was another significant difference between the teams.

The Welsh scrum was on top, the defence stronger and the attack functioning just fine, but it was all undermined. When Jones saw yellow, the line-out fell apart properly, but it was the lack of Jones' presence in defence that was most keenly felt. England scored 17 points in his absence.

Wilkinson booted England into an 11th-minute lead after Wales forward Andy Powell was punished for being off his feet in a ruck, yet there remained little to choose between the sides.

England had started to exert some dominance at the line-out, taking three of Wales' first five throws, but their indiscipline at an attacking scrum - prop David Wilson was punished - blew a promising position.

Wales had two long-range penalty chances during the opening 22 minutes, yet both were sent wide by centre James Hook as neither team settled.

Jones replaced Hook when Wales gained another long-range chance thirteen minutes before the break, and he found the target with an equalising strike.

Wilkinson applied an immediate punishment for Jones' transgression, kicking the resulting penalty, but worse was to come for Wales as Jones pondered his responsibilities from his seat in the stand.

Despite some heroic defensive work, especially from Adam Jones, Wales could not hold England out and Haskell stretched over for a close-range try.

Wales initially did well to thwart England's efforts, before Haskell squeezed through the combined challenge of scrum-half Gareth Cooper and Wales captain Ryan Jones right on half-time.

Wilkinson added the conversion, lifting England into a 13-3 lead and underlining Alun-Wyn Jones' crass indiscretion.

But worse was to come for the Ospreys lock as England scored again before he could return to the field.

England skipper Steve Borthwick stole possession superbly for his side, creating an attacking platform that Care prospered from by racing through an absent Welsh defence.

Wilkinson's conversion put England 20-3 ahead, and Wales knew they had to score next or face oblivion.

But the visitors delivered, lock Jones going a small way to atoning for his sin-binning by delivering the scoring pass to prop Jones that gave Wales a glimmer of hope and had captain Jones rousing his troops while fly-half Jones converted (if ever there was a sentence born in Wales, this one is it).

Hook then increased Welsh optimism with a darting score, but England finished them off when Armitage intercepted, Tait took the ball on and Haskell rounded it off with his support for his second. Wilkinson iced the cake with a late penalty.

Both sides need vast improvements if they are to contest the Six Nations title, but England are up and running, which is all Martin Johnson will worry about.

Man of the match: It's not often this happens, but we'll opt for a member of the losing side here, with Adam Jones putting in a flanker's share of running in defence and attack, delivering a sterling scrummaging performance and capping all that off with a try.

Moment of the match: James Hook's try was the finest moment of individual skill, but a close second was the angled run and change of pace Mathew Tait used to capitalise on the Armitage interception and set up Haskell for the clinching try.

Villain of the match: Alun-Wyn Jones' yellow card rendered all Wales' good defensive work until then null and void and gave the Welsh too much to do. That's a fine...

The scorers:

For England:
Tries: Haskell 2, Care
Cons: Wilkinson 3
Pens: Wilkinson 2

For Wales:
Tries: Adam Jones, Hook
Cons: Stephen Jones 2
Pen: Stephen Jones

Yellow card: Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales, 35, tripping)

England: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Mark Cueto, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Riki Flutey, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Lewis Moody, 6 James Haskell, 5 Steve Borthwick (c), 4 Simon Shaw, 3 David Wilson, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Tim Payne.
Replacements: 16 Steve Thompson, 17 Dan Cole, 18 Louis Deacon, 19 Steffon Armitage, 20 Paul Hodgson, 21 Toby Flood, 22 Ben Foden.

Wales: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Tom James, 13 James Hook, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Gareth Cooper, 8 Ryan Jones (c), 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Andy Powell, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Gareth Williams, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 Paul James, 18 Bradley Davies, 19 Jonathan Thomas, 20 Richie Rees, 21 Andrew Bishop, 22 Leigh Halfpenny.

Referee:Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Television match official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
Assessor: Michael Lamoulie (France), Tony Spreadbury (England)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 25
Ulster vs Toulon13:00
Scarlets vs Leicester19:45
Bath vs Toulouse15:15
Montpellier vs Glasgow17:15
Northampton vs Ospreys17:15
Sunday , October 26
Clermont Auvergne vs Sale Sharks15:15
Castres vs Leinster13:00
Wasps vs Harlequins17:15
Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 9217:15
More European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh vs Bordeaux-BeglesLondon Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles Preview
Friday , October 24
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:30
Brive vs Zebre18:30
Grenoble vs London Irish18:30
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Newcastle19:30
Edinburgh vs LOU Rugby19:45
Saturday , October 25
Bucuresti vs Stade Francais14:00
Rovigo vs Cardiff Blues14:00
Exeter vs Connacht15:00
Oyonnax vs Gloucester19:45
More European Rugby Challenge Cup fixtures
Currie Cup
Saturday , October 25
Western Province vs Lions17:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Saturday , October 25
Taranaki vs Tasman19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
Toulouse 30 - 23 MontpellierToulouse vs Montpellier Report
Toulon 28 - 18 ScarletsToulon vs Scarlets Report
Leinster 25 - 20 WaspsLeinster vs Wasps Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
London Irish 70 - 14 RovigoLondon Irish vs Rovigo Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
International Match
Saturday , October 18
Australia 28 - 29 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More International Match results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sale Sharks 26 - 27 MunsterSale Sharks vs Munster Report
Saracens 30 - 23 Clermont AuvergneSaracens vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro 92 20 - 11 NorthamptonRacing Metro 92 vs Northampton Report
Glasgow 37 - 10 BathGlasgow vs Bath Report
Leicester 25 - 18 UlsterLeicester vs Ulster Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
LOU Rugby 28 - 18 London WelshLOU Rugby vs London Welsh Report
Zebre 24 - 33 Oyonnax
Cardiff Blues 37 - 14 Grenoble
Stade Francais 22 - 38 Newport Gwent D'gons
Bayonne 30 - 24 Exeter
Connacht 48 - 12 La Rochelle
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Currie Cup
Lions 50 - 20 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
Western Province 31 - 23 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Taranaki 49 - 30 AucklandTaranaki vs Auckland Report
Manawatu 23 - 18 Southland
Tasman 26 - 6 CanterburyTasman vs Canterbury Report
More ITM Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 17
Harlequins 25 - 9 CastresHarlequins vs Castres Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Bordeaux-Begles 13 - 15 EdinburghBordeaux-Begles vs Edinburgh Report
Newcastle 43 - 19 Bucuresti
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton625
2Saracens622
3Exeter620
4Bath620
5Wasps615