England 19-26 Wales. How ever did we manage that?
Wales were utterly woeful in the first half. The lineout wasn’t functioning. They were getting driven off the ball at every ruck. And their management of the restarts appeared to be completely without thought or commitment. The only reason that England were not 3 or 4 tries to the good is that, like all four teams we have seen on show today, they were rusty. The moves were not working as they should. There was no lack of opportunities. And just like Jake White, I was expecting the floodgates to open in the second half.
When a team is getting as beaten as badly as that, all they can hope to do in the second half is not lose heart. They still have to compete. If they do, a miracle may happen. And so it did. I have seen England teams play poorly before now, but I have never seem one give away a game from such a position of dominance in such an abject manner. All Wales had to do was keep playing, get the basics right (if I may be permitted a cliché), and the points would come.
For the Welsh, I thought that Lee Byrne had a particularly good game. Phillips, Hook, Henson and the two wings showed flashes of what they are capable of. The pack did OK, but has to work hard on the lineouts and rucks. I’d still start Shanklin ahead of Sony Parker. The entire England team should be made to sit in the corner with dunce caps on their heads.
After all the nonsense about not winning at Twickenham for 20 years (which is true, but the English conveniently forget the game at Wembley in 1999) this was a particularly satisfying win. Now here’s hoping that Gatland and Edwards can turn this piece of good fortune into some solid good play for the rest of the tournament.
There was, of course, a game in Ireland too. Italy were not good, but as usual they relied on a lot of strength and passion to carry them through. Ireland were not good either, and can count themselves lucky to get away with a 16-11 win. Eoin Reddan was impressive, as was Rob Kearney when he came on. But Ireland have a long way to go to confirm their ranking as one of the favorites for the title.