In sport there games that you win, games that you lose, and games that you give away. Wales gave away today’s game against England.
The game turned on an incident about 5 minutes before half time when Alun Wyn Jones was sin-binned for tripping Dylan Hartley. It was a stupid offense, committed right in front of the referee. While Wyn Jones was cooling his heels in the bin, England scored 17 unanswered points. In addition to that, Tom James messed up a golden opportunity for a try, and Stephen Jones and James Hook missed three penalty attempts between then. That’s a total of 33 points given away, in a game that we lost 30-17.
England will be reasonably pleased to have taken their chances when they came, even though all three of their tries were given to them in one way or another: two when Wales were a man down, and the third from an interception. They should be less pleased with how long it took them to score the first try. Their forwards clearly don’t trust their backs with the ball. Possibly the best news for them is that Wilkinson is still at his metronomic best with the boot.
As I feared, Gareth Cooper had a poor game at scrum half, squandering two good scoring opportunities with ill-advised chip kicks and generally giving poor service to the back line. Gareth Williams had a nightmare throwing into the lineout. Both men were replaced in the second half, after which the Welsh team appeared to function more smoothly.
That’s by no means the end of the road for Wales. They have three home games to come, and played well enough against England that I expect them to beat Italy and Scotland. The home game against France, and the away game against Ireland, will be much more of a challenge.
Speaking of the Irish, they opened their campaign against an Italian side lacking their inspirational captain, Sergio Parisse, and as toothless as I have ever seen them. Italy appeared to require a committee meeting each time before releasing the ball from the ruck. If this year’s Ferrari is as slow, Lewis and Jenson will be laughing. Ireland, however, only managed a 29-11 win and will not be happy with their lack of incisiveness.