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Bright futures and troubling slumps

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Tom Fordyce | 23:37 UK time, Friday, 4 February 2011

We thought it would be tight. It was. We thought it would be deafening, and tense, and bone-shaking from first minute to last. We had that right too.

In a contest of relentless ebb and flow, England emerged from the rubble with a precious 26-19 victory for two main reasons: they converted their chances into points when Wales did not, and in Toby Flood and Chris Ashton they had the two most influential players on the pitch.

One was the controller, the other the finisher. Between them they launched England's Six Nations campaign on the sort of trajectory that might just end somewhere rather unexpected.

This match was always bigger than just the opening salvo in what most reckon to be a very close championship. Any Wales-England fixture is soaked in centuries of cant and bile, but the way this one has fallen in the calendar gave it even greater significance.

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It was snakes and ladders on a rugby field. England's first win in Cardiff in eight years segues into three successive home matches, two of which they should win and one they will be very optimistic about. Suddenly, outlandish though it might sound, there will be talk that the game in Dublin on 19 March could be a Grand Slam decider.

A victory for Wales would have stirred renewed hope of a charge of their own. Instead, another Friday fright night (three Six Nations matches played on that day, three defeats recorded) sends them sliding the other way. This defeat, albeit a narrow one, makes it just two wins from their last 14 games. With their next two fixtures both away from home, the Gatland revolution is in danger of looking awfully similar to the discredited regimes it replaced.

As momentum swung from one side to the other, four key shifts stood out.

Wales had dominated the opening 10 minutes, playing with tempo and direction, only to miss the two penalties that their pressure created. England made their first serious possession pay.

The drives from the back row were relentless, the ball was quick. With the Welsh backs sucked in to plug a hole, Flood was suddenly running into a large gap with Welsh props Paul James and Craig Mitchell the signposts pointing to the try-line. Ashton, who appears on a breaking man's shoulder with a rugby league-learned regularity that is becoming a trademark, did the rest.

Wales fought back. When another rumbling carry from the impressive Bradley Davies led to Stephen Jones putting Dan Lydiate through, only a desperate illegal intervention from Louis Deacon prevented Mike Phillips getting the ball away for a certain try.

Deacon was sin-binned, but a single penalty was scant punishment for his act. Last year at Twickenham Alun Wyn Jones's yellow card led to 17 unanswered English points. This time Andy Powell's own daft infringement meant there was no net gain at all.

Wales fought back but were shattered to lose to England

Early in the second half, and another Welsh chance. The score was back to 9-13, the Millennium Stadium roaring its feverish support, England wobbling. Then Mitchell dived over a ruck to kill the ball, found himself yellow-carded and handed the impetus straight back to Martin Johnson's men.

Many in the home support thought Alain Rolland's decision harsh. Mitchell was not in his own 22, and Ashton had just escaped with a penalty for the same offence down the other end. But it was still a reckless - and needless - gamble, and the extra man allowed Ashton the space to cross for his second try of the night.

There was still hope of a home triumph. With 10 minutes left on the clock, the gap was down to 19-23. Wales were running at the English line with a wave of noise at their backs.

Then Lee Byrne, on as a replacement for Stephen Jones, sliced a simple clearing kick straight into touch. England drove off the line-out and spent three precious minutes camped on the Welsh line. When marvellous defence held them up, Byrne was pinged for not releasing to give Jonny Wilkinson the chance to finally put the win more than a converted try away.

Flood had gone off with 14 minutes to go, his best game in an England shirt behind him. His distribution from hand was excellent, his decision-making under pressure faultless. From the hand he kicked with purpose, turning defenders and never giving James Hook the chance to run the ball back from space; from the tee he nailed every opportunity he had.

Ashton, meanwhile, was a livewire sparking all around the pitch. He currently combines the try-scoring regularity of Will Greenwood with the dramatic acceleration of Rory Underwood, his five tries in eight internationals turning him into the sort of finisher England have lacked since their last Grand Slam triumph in 2003.

In the visitors' ranks, only Shontayne Hape had a poor game, exposed in defence by Jonathan Davies for the break that led to Morgan Stoddart's try and guilty of giving away a pointless penalty that almost brought Wales back into it.

After all the pre-match sledging from Gatland, Dylan Hartley hit his jumpers on every single line-out. Tom Palmer dominated in the air and did significant damage with the ball under his arm. Tom Wood, in his first international start, was relentless in the tackle and indefatigable around the field. After a worrying first half, the defence tightened up dramatically in the second and by the end looked impenetrable. 126 tackles were made to Wales' 93, the five missed almost all in that first period.

There was also the matter of how England's six Cardiff debutants dealt with their baptism of fire. The strong winds that buffeted Cardiff all afternoon were nothing compared to the gale of boos and whistles as England ran out at the start, but the young guns - Ashton, Wood and Ben Youngs in particular - stood firm.

For Wales it was a painfully familiar tale. At times they looked electrifying, dangerous with ball in hand and coming back again and again where lesser teams on better runs might have crumbled and given way. The scrum was not the key battleground many had expected, and Bradley Davies and Sam Warburton cemented their burgeoning reputations for the campaign ahead.

But, just as in the autumn internationals, possession could not be converted into prizes. In the first half overlaps and half-chances were kicked away; in the second, their best efforts and attacks broke up on a relentless wall of white jerseys. Throughout the 80 minutes, even experienced heads like Shane Williams and Andy Powell allowed pressure to dent their decision-making.

Scotland at Murrayfield next weekend will be little easier. Nor will France in Paris on the final weekend. Somehow this talented but inconsistent side has to start winning, rather than falling short by tantalisingly small margins.

For England there is obvious improvement. For the first time under Johnson they fired away from home in a Six Nations match that really mattered; until Friday night, they had won just one of their last six matches away from home in this old tournament and just four of their last 16, three of which came against Italy.

They also stayed strong when the squeeze was on in the last 20 minutes in a way they couldn't against Ireland and Scotland last season, refusing to crumble even when 80,000 screaming Welshmen were giving them every excuse to do so.

"When you get into the last 20 and its close, it's how you put it away that matters," said a relieved Johnson afterwards.

"There were anxious moments all the way through. If Wales had held onto a couple of balls, they might have had us in trouble. Both teams will have what ifs, but ultimately we won. And that was a great game for our guys to come through and win."

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  • Comment number 1.

    Why Is Andy Powell described as an old head who made poor decisions under pressure? The only decent decision he has made in his rugby career was when he took the golf buggy for a ride and got banned. If gatland ever picks him again then I am going to support the opposition.

  • Comment number 2.

    Sorry to go slightly off topic but as a neutral last night I found it hard to enjoy the game due to Brian moore's jingoistic commentary. He can make some insightful comments but come on BBC can you not find someone slightly less biased? If you have him tied into a contract at least put him on Scotland France or something (although I'm praying he isn't doing a 2nd game this weekend)

    As for last night I thought Wales lacked

  • Comment number 3.

    Wales has become the laughing stock of rugby. Hype & flames & smoke amount to nothing. Gatland is playing the fool by promising & promising, raking in the cash and not delivering, nice job if you can get it innit Mr Gatland...? Give that team to Nick Mallett and they`ll play in a Wcup semi-final.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hit post by mistake there - damn phone - trying to say Wales lacked penetration in midfield and England were solid without being spectacular. Probably deserved the win though

  • Comment number 5.

    Good game to watch. Result was about fair even if Wales should have made it closer. One thing we could do without is Ashton's arrogance / over-exuberance. It doessn'y look 'right'' In terms of commentary I agree with #2 above. I feel that neutrality is becoming a scarcer commodity these days. Calm down, Ashton.

  • Comment number 6.

    I don't think we need Rugby League style celebrations in Rugby Union and Ashton should be given a ticking off for it.

    I find Brian Moore to be entertaining and insightful. He is usually entirely correct about the laws where other commentators are not. He may be a little on the biased side but I can put up with that as he is very good at describing what is going on in an accutate manner.

    I thought the behaviour of the Welsh crowd was a disgrace and like Ashton an embarrassment to their country.

    I also think that there is no place for Friday night games in Rugby Union and this should be stopped before it becomes a habit. It is unfair on those of us who would go to the game if it was held on a Saturday. It is also a form of cheating as it means that less away supporters are able to attend thus giving a greater advantage to the home side.

  • Comment number 7.

    Pulsating???? In your opinion maybe.

    Not sure why southerners and the Welsh get so excited about this sport, BBC seem determined to ram it down our throats tho.

  • Comment number 8.

    Brian Moore's commentary is like marmite - you either love it, or you hate it! His best comment of the evening was nothing to do with rugby - upon spying Alaistair Cooke in the crowd Eddie Butler said "What a magnificent series he had in the Ashes Down Under...." Brian Moore responded "Couldn't happen to a nicer race"! Genius! Jingoistic banter here we come.....

  • Comment number 9.

    England deserved the win. From a Welsh point of view for next week, swap Craig Mitchell for John Yapp. Drop Jamie Roberts to the bench (he did nothing all game and isn't what he was 2 years ago). Then put Hook back in the centre with Priestland or Halfpenny if he's fit at full back. Oh, and of course, start Ryan Jones not Andy Powell.

  • Comment number 10.

    I have to say I disagree with the comment about Friday night games, I think they're great fun, the atmosphere is good and it's a good chance for those of us who still play the game and invariably miss one if not both of the Saturday games to see some(live)rugby!

    But I would limit it to 1 game per year on the opening weekend - its a good start to the tournament - and it should be shared around more now that we know it seems to work.

  • Comment number 11.

    Excellent summary of the game. England still look very pedestrian going forward and reliant on the forwards to create chances but at least they are being more accurate and controlled when in possession. A more creative half back would make such a difference.

  • Comment number 12.

    mpwapwaman He just scored at the MS with 80,000 people watching why not be over-exuberant... Be the biggest moment in his career. Good on ya Ashton enjoy it fellar.

    So happy we beat the Welsh after a week of we gonna do this or that to the English... HAHAHAAHA

  • Comment number 13.

    Compelling match and great victory under pressure - Wales scored their try as a result of one of these pointless punts (Ben Youngs in this case) from the base of the scrum - you can always see him (and the others that do it) shaping up to do this - it almost always directly gives possession away and puts us on the back foot - Martin - please - when are you you going to stop our boys doing this.

  • Comment number 14.

    Don't agree with the posts about Moores bias - he is one of those great commentators/analysts ( like Michael Johnson) who tell it like it is. Strong, amusing opinions and he criticises England as much as he praises them.

    Good performance from England but it amazes me how many ways we can find to give away penalties - if you can't cheat smart don't cheat!

  • Comment number 15.

    Great match to start the tournament. Only shame is Brian Moore. He has no business being a commentator, Bill MClaren will be turning in his grave. Personal opinion is for the pundits, not commentators.

  • Comment number 16.

    As a welshman, I had predicted an England win by a slightly larger margin, which is difficult to admit, but was based on Andy Powell was starting and James Hook at full back, what is Gatland thinking about.

    For me, the game was lost in the first half. Straight from the kick off following the sin bin penalty Powell took the ball into contact and got turned over (not for the first time at international level) which handed England the ball for 5 mins to run the clock down. To add inslut to injury he then gave away the penalty for England to lead that 10min period 3-0. Powell is and has been a liability at international level for Wales for a couple of seasons. Thankfully he injured himself and Ryan Jones is starting to look like he is recapturing his best form.

    James Hook is one of the most dangerous players in the world game but is never going to open defences from full back, he needs to be playing at 10 or 12. It would be harsh to drop Stephen Jones as he had a good game and was solid in defence. We need to drop Roberts and play Hook at 12 and Davies at 13.

  • Comment number 17.

    Good Friday evening entertainment! I'd like to priase the positive refereeing of Alain Rolland. He took action at the scrums from the kick-off and was sharp at the rucks. Let's hope others follow his lead!

  • Comment number 18.

    I like Brian Moore's commentary. He's forthright, concise, and a refreshing change from all the anodyne pacification of the likes of Inverdale and Guscott. He's English, he want's the English to play well and win. He's, possibly, even more scathing to the England team than any of their opponents. He brings a level of inside knowledge and experience, and eloquence, which few other pundits can match.

    Moving on, people seem to be criticising Chris Ashton for enjoying the game. Another refreshing change in the oh-so-serious world of professional sport. Playing the game with a smile on his face, and celebrating scores is a bad thing? More of it, please.

    Top match, right result. One down, four to go. Game on!

  • Comment number 19.

    England dereved the win, a blueprint for how they wil play in the RWC. Feel you have overated the backline Tom. Youngs very average (after pre-match hype) but he will have better days; was Tindall on the pitch?; Foden did very little; one day Ashton is going to lose the ball in his dive and he may stop all that over the top celebration - both tries my grandmother would have scored after the excellent build up work. The pack and the defence were top rate, but as MJ himself said, room for improvement. Oh, and good to see so few scrums going to ground.

  • Comment number 20.

    I agree with DiscoStew (post 14). Moores does get on my nerves but he does know the game and when stupid mistakes are made he's first to redicule them. I fail to see this bias that everyone is knocking him for however. He easily said as many bad things about England as he said good last night.

    As an englishman I was happy with the result, especially as I agreed with a welsh colleague of mine that Wales were probably going to sneak it with a late try (pre match prediction was 20-18 to wales). This of course left many fingers chewed back to my knuckles in that last 10 minutes. Credit given where credit is due, England showed a lot of guts, but their backs lacked a cutting edge and I think the Hape experiment has failed as you can let his defensive mishaps go is he was cutting the opposition in half, however he didn't make a single line break last night...I'm not even sure if he made the gain-line.

    I was very disappointed with Chris Ashton, a great deal of praise is being given to him because he finished off an overlap (a prop forward could have scored that) and because he was on Toby Flood's shoulder which would be expected of any winger these days. His try celebrations are stupid and as excited as he may be, may find himself dropping the ball before long and costing England a game.

    Wales were unlucky, they have the players available but lacked a cutting edge. Team selection was poor also, Andy Powell was awful and I have a large inkling that his "shoulder injury" was more of a tactical substitution. James Hook is a potent threat, he can find gaps where there are none and his flame was snubbed out at full-back by clever tactics employed by England. There was no doubt in my mind that he should have been playing fly half and I imagine he'll start there next week. Lee Byrne will need to be dropped from the 22 completely. He was completely out of form and his french renaissance could do him a world of good.

    Wales have so much potential, but I think this will only be noticed when Gatland is replaced.

  • Comment number 21.

    Message to Chris Ashton - how dare you celebrate and enjoy one of the biggest moments of your career.

    Please limit your celebration to a gentlemanly handshake and pat on the backside as opposed to last night's vulgar exhibitionism.

  • Comment number 22.

    Brian Moore is the rugby equivilent of Geoffrey Boycott; not that that'a a bad comparison. Personally, I find Boycott grates on my nerves after a while but weather you like or loath them, they both know there games inside out and back-to-front.

    English i am but i didn't think Moore's comentary was as one sided as some do. How many of those listening do so with a bias against the man and will happily latch on to any semi comment made with an English lean to it? Lots of you, i'd say.

    As for the game; England dominated and if it wasn't down to our own errors then Wales could well have been on the end of a seriously heavy defeat.

    I see a slow, steady development and i'm heartened. It's taken MJ a while but he seems to be developing a winning mindset and instilling a sense of self belief in his players.


  • Comment number 23.

    #5 and 6

    As a wise old hack once put it, youthful exuberance is nothing to condemn - Ashton's swallow dive was a young player expressing his delight at scoring in such a highly-charged environment. He should only be criticised if he'd dropped it!

  • Comment number 24.

    All Martin Johnson seems to have done in the forwards is replace carthorses with bigger and slightly younger carthorses.What he has done to the back-line is anybodies guess,but some of the passing would do little justice to a bunch of beginners.And oh yes! England will probably bulldoze - maybe I should be talking about JCBs instead of carthorses!- their way to, or close to contention for this years championship but they will also be taking rugby back to the dark ages.

    Bradley Davies & Sam Warburton were the performances of the night;and as for Brian Moore,thank God I have an alternative channel on which I can watch it even it it does throw up Tony Ward from time to time.

  • Comment number 25.

    Brian Moore excellent,has to be aa bit biased in England/Wales games to make up for Eddie Butler.
    Ashton isnt being arrogant just stupid and one day will drop the ball.
    Wales please please keep picking Andy Powell and keep Hook at full back at least when you are playing England.

  • Comment number 26.

    I enjoy the Friday night format, I'm sure any visiting supporter with tickets would be happy to take the day off work. It certainly sounded like many English fans had yesterday.

    The Wales bining was a bit unlucky I felt as it didn't have the potential to change the score but then of course there was that trip. Immediately flagged up as dirty play in my mind and a card of some sort if spotted.

    One day Ashton will drop the ball but until then I don't care how he celebrates as long as he scores.

  • Comment number 27.

    having listened to Gareth Edwards and Clifff Morgan down the years (great players, great commentators both... but hardly unbiased) it's about time the welsh lads had a taste of Brian Moore.

    His commentary isn't as biased as you think (... maybe tainted by memories of Moore the player?) and his technical comments are spot on.

    Great match. Could have gone either way. Even better atmosphere, the 'Milstad' has to be the greatest of venues.

  • Comment number 28.

    First of all, I have to say I really enjoyed the Friday night game, the atmosphere was immense which produced a great game. Whilst less people could get to the game, it did give the opportunity for more people to watch it on TV. Mind you, if there was ever going to be another Friday night game, it would have to be the same fixture.

    One thing which really frustrates me is England's giving away of stupid penalties especially hands in at the maul. Are they just thick or are they naive to think the referee wont see it? I remember the exact same thing last year where ill discipline lost us the games against France and Ireland.

    On a positive note it was good to see England playing from the back and not just lumping the ball forward with the boot which they were so accustomed to doing last campaign. I think Johnson's brought in some great new young players who will no doubt mould as a team and cut out those handling errors we sometimes saw last night.

    Time will tell if England have a good shot at the Title and World Cup, we need to beat Italy next week and give a better performance than we did last year on the back of beating Wales again. C'mon England!

  • Comment number 29.

    Michael there is nothing wrong with scheduling 1 game on a Sunday for those who play on Saturdays. This would still give away supporters more of a chance to go. Friday night games do not allow this.

    The game in Cardiff was the only game that I wanted to attend during the Six Nations as I have many Welsh friends but due to the scheduling and work commitments, I was unable to go. I now have to wait two years before the opportunity comes round again.

    As for those claiming that Ashton should celebrate. There is a big difference between celebrating and taking the micky. Holding the ball in one hand and pointing to the crowd Rugby League style before scoring is a step too far tawards taking the micky. Pointing then taking a swan dive as Ashton did was nothing short of arrogant. I don't mind people celebrating after they've scored but don't do it in a way that is desrespectful and certsinly don't do it before you've scored.

  • Comment number 30.

    Enjoyed the game and the Friday night kick off (it works for a curtain raiser but should be limited to just that).

    England were more professional than recent seasons but without any outstanding performers. Flood and Palmer were good. That centre partnership won't be causing sleepless nights in the southern hemisphere. I also thought the flavour of the month Youngs had a poor game.

    Can we have Sinbad on the bench please? England crying out for a skillful ball player.

    I was disappointed by Wales - gameplan and execution not what it should be. The players seemed short of confidence. Philips (terrible passing and crabbing) and Roberts (where was the Lions man of the series?) were very poor.

  • Comment number 31.

    The juxtaposition of the words "Andy Powell" and "decision making" are making me hoot. The man is a liability. If used at all, he needs to come on for the last ten minutes when other legs are tired.

    Wales are missing Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones, but these players won't last forever.

  • Comment number 32.

    I love it, whilst rugby players insist they play on looking as though they've ran through brick walls bloodied and bruised, Fifa debate whether football players should or should not wear snoods.

  • Comment number 33.

    Fuzzy Duck, so i take it you're not a southerners then? I've a simple solution to your dilema. If you don't like rugby union, don't watch rugby union. You'll be a rugby league man, i take it?

    I suppose you'd consider a challange cup final pulsating? Yeah, you might but I'll sooner watch Eastenders with my wife, and that's not happing anytime soon.


  • Comment number 34.

    In future Ashton, after scoring another brace of tries, should place the ball down with a modicum of flourish, tap out his pipe on the base of the post, then trot back to halfway whilst acknowledging the rattles in the crowd with cheeky doffing of his cap. There's no place in sporting entertainment arenas for expressing pleasure with ones team mates

  • Comment number 35.

    good game, have i missed a change in the laws? surely if the scrum half has his hands on the ball at the back of a ruck the ball is in play? Deacon was on his feet and came from the back of the ruck, it happened a couple of time to Wales as well.
    Wales need to find a couple more like Bradley Davis to make any progress, they never really looked dangerous apart from England errors.
    c'mon england

  • Comment number 36.

    Try count - Rugby League 2 Rugby Union 1...

  • Comment number 37.

    I disagree with the (Ashton should be given a ticking off for it) comment, what did he do? be offensive? not a jot, he knew he was through as did 74000 other people in stadium and he wanted a big style celebration.

    if it ws a welsh try scorer doing exactly the same or an all black would the comment have been made? i very much doubt it

    Wasn't a bad game, welsh decision making was a bit naive and england played well without really getting out of2nd or 3rd gear.

    Still think the french and irish will turn us over if we play as we did against the welsh

  • Comment number 38.

    Another disappointing day for welsh rugby ! We lack composure in possesion !It seems confidence is so low that players seem to want rid of the ball because they are afraid of making a mistake! The contact area was good for Wales we just lack the composure in possesion !

    Regarding Ashton's celebrations,i'm not a big fan of show boating but Shane Williams does it all the time (Winning try against Scotland last season for example) and people don't seem to mention it ?

    Finally regarding Brian Moore's commentary, what's the problem ! Yes he's English, yes he want's England to win. Nothing worse than false inpartiality !!!!

  • Comment number 39.

    From an Englishman's point of view - I have to say I thought Bradley Davies had an immense game and Lydiate was also very good. If it weren't for Powell at number 8 - I think you could argue Wales would have a stronger back 3...I think Haskell and Powell are probably equally overrated bludgeons.

    Essentially, England were a better team than Wales last night and are so much better than where they were 2 years ago because they are now more clinical and take their chances. It's invaluable having a kicker taking all the points and not all of them were gimmees.

    What shocked me last night were how poor Wale's back line were. Stoddart showed some spark but the majority of the match saw them going sideways. The half backs, Phillips and Jones, both had stinkers - epitomised by Jones getting ram roaded by Foden in the 1st minute - when he had his head on completely the wrong side and the passage of play for about 5-10 minutes which saw Phillips forget how to throw a ball... It also seems as though Roberts' shoulder injuries seem to have really taken something away from his game. The welsh game was built around him 1-2 years ago and now there is no needs for Joe Worsley to be a designated man marking him - as he doesn't seem to be drawing as many people into the tackles as he used to do. Perhaps Hape and Tindall weren't as "anonymous" as some people would make them out to be.

    I would also like to say that I thought Allain Rolland referreed the scrums very well - not necessarily getting it right all the time but being decisive. As for Brian Moore, he has opinions and speaks them. I wouldn't say they were necessary biased.

  • Comment number 40.

    Unfortunately I was only able to watch the game on tv so it all looked a bit dull to me. Why does the director focus so much on individuals? It's very annoying when the ball is in someones hands, the crowd get excited but as a tv viewer you have no ideas where this guy is on the field of play, nor who's in front of him, beside him or even behind him. Difficult to get excited without context.

    I know, why not paint stripes on the grass every couple of yards and give them different numbers and we'll at least know where the 'action' is taking place even if we can't see whats going on around.

    So .. saw one or two guys run into each other. Another few guys in red pass to the fella next to him. And a guy in white, then alternately a fella in red, kick the ball from the ground. Another fella in white auditioned for gymnastics I think while holding a ball in one hand.

    Loads of unmitigated hype and nonsense spoken before hand that made it extremely unlikely that the game could match. And it duly failed.

    Rugby has a problem. In it's current state it's boring and the tv coverage makes it look worse.

  • Comment number 41.

    I love Brian Moore. He is very fair and calls it as he sees it. I have no time for those who say he is overly biased. Also he is the summariser, not the commentator so it is indeed his job to give his expert opinion on what is happening on the pitch. He does it in an entertaining way with his own style.

  • Comment number 42.

    Thought England were workmanlike & just about deserved the win. They seemed to feel that Wales couldn't hurt, didn't commit many men to the breakdowns & planned to let them wear themselves out.

    Against such a committed ( if lacking in confidence ) side it was a dangerous strategy & only just worked. It did work however so congratulations, but looking for more oomph going forward in the subsequent games.

    England need to look at the centres to my mind as they did very little once again in a positive sense. Of course it is Wales away so maybe expansiveness is not in the plan.

    As for Brian Moore, he does get a bit excitable & is a tad biased but compared to the eulogising of Phil Bennett's comments about the Welsh people hating England for hundreds of years, it is surely tame stuff.

  • Comment number 43.

    Great performance by England, thoroughly enjoyable game.

    I think condemnation of Ashton's celebration is boorish and gratuitous. His evident excitement and enthusiasm when playing rugby should be commended; it underpins his dynamism and makes a positive contribution to team spirit. Rugby Union should be fun not surly, and any suggestion to the contrary is baffling. Both Lewis Moody and Martin Johnson said "he can celebrate how he wants if he keeps scoring tries", and this is the bottom line!

    As for 6N on a Friday, long may it continue...great spectacle, great atmosphere. Rugby Union should continue in its efforts to grow the sport, and not be burdened by the insecurities betrayed by some of the above posters.

  • Comment number 44.

    Mike Ireland, you make me laugh. You say England are going backwards and dragging rugby to the dark ages. I've no problem with attritional rugby when the more athletic forwards are injured; namely Lawes and Croft. I can't, for one moment, imagine that either would have picked up and driven as the English forwards did toward the end of the game. I wasn't put off by this tactic as it swallowed up plenty of time and i was confident we'd score the try to put the game to bed. Ok, so we fluffed our lines but still the tactic was, for me, a sound one.

    Persoanlly i feel England are building confidence and momentum in preperation for the rest of the 6N and the WC.


  • Comment number 45.

    Excellent analysis Tom. However, I think you were a bit hard on Hape. He was instrumental in directing things for Ashton's second try although he did show naivety in ball watching for the Wales try. That try originated from a very poor rushed kick by Ben Youngs, allowing the Welsh to run at us from well inside our own half. A teriffic prospect but not his greatest night.

  • Comment number 46.

    That was a decent game of rugby to kick off the tournament - not "pulsating" but decent. I don't think England played that well - just better than Wales, and that's all they needed. If they were playing against a better attacking team I think they probably would have lost (Hape couldn't tackle a fish supper last night but was targeted once).
    Eddie Butler said Wales were being "patient" with their build up- there was only one player who consistently got over the gain line (Davies) - noone else ran from deep to get momentum to barge through the defence. It was a far too easy defensive game for England. And it got worse when Hook went into out-half. Wales looked frantic and desperate then and made bad decisions. Hook shouldn't be put there until he's cemented that spot in Perpignon.

  • Comment number 47.

    As a neutral watching this game (Ireland supporter), I can't help thinking that this was a woeful advert for northern hemisphere rugby. Where were the multiple lines of supporting runners, the off-loads in contact, the quick ball and dynamic counter-rucking that is ingrained in all the Southern Hemisphere sides?
    I appreciate that the stakes are high in the opening game, but surely that shouldn't stop teams from attempting to play rugby? I'm just concerned that this is not going to be a one-off problem and all the teams in the Six Nations will play this way.

  • Comment number 48.

    Deinitely "pulsating" full of tension and I really enjoyed the game AND the win.
    Tom Palmer was immense and must have been a very close second to the excellent Toby Flood for Man of the Match.

  • Comment number 49.

    Those who are saying Brian Moore is biased, just look back to the Scotland/Wales game last year and Jonathan Davies commentating. Or, the post-match punditry last night- could not acnowledge that the trip was a red card as Inverdale, Guscott and Moore said it was.

    Youngs didn't have his greatest game, but I thought the back row were great apart from some poor ball carrying by Easter. Hape lacking a bit defensively but still made some good tackles.

  • Comment number 50.

    Good game, certainly England were the better team, and as for Ashton's celebration, risky, but hardly a disgrace, simply a demonstration of the necessary passion that has perhaps been lacking from previous England teams.

    Im a Bath fan and still I don't really see a place for Hape in this England team, he has his moments but I find him one dimensional and he offers nothing different to Mike Tindall who I do continue to those who ask where he was, try finding him under three high balls in a row, catching and securing all..what he needs is a creative centre partner akin to Greenwood which sadly Hape is not.

    As an Englishman, I am serious liking Jonathan Davies though(the player not the pundit!)..I think he has great potential and a touch of the Scott Gibbs about him.

    Liking Brian Moore's commentary, honest, insightful, I think he also demonstrates a reverse bias and is almost more critical of England as he simply expects better of them...liking Friday night rugby...Liking the pomp and fire at millenium stadium, what a great start!

    Its very easy to be hypercritical of players like Youngs, he is always going to prone to some error(dont forget that he remains a relatively inexperienced international), but his delivery remains fast and consistent, and if you are to compare that to Mike Phillips' delivery which hit the ground more than it did the hands then I think a tad unfair.

    Always room for improvement, but a win is a win, and as Woodward used to say if you can play badly and still win...

    I do think they should work hard to eliminate this booing during kicks it's even started to creep in at's just not good manners!

  • Comment number 51.

    Great game, good summary. One very good point concerns Deacon's cynical penalty which denied Wales a clear try opportunity early on. You are right; the punishment does not fit the crime. Too many penalties, not enough tries. We see international teams adopting this tactic often. This is why New Zealand concede so few tries. I believe the penalty try law should be changed so that cynical foul play which "prevents the opponents from a clear opportunity to score a try should penalised with a penalty try and a red card." In softening the law from "...where a try would probably have been scored" would bring some of the purity back to attacking rugby.

    As a Welshman I should say that Deacon's offence was an isolated incident and England well deserved their win. Can't even blame Alain Rolland who, for once, had a reasonable game.

  • Comment number 52.

    A little bit off topic, but I think a few people should cheer up slighty. Having a dig at chris ashton for his celebration is pretty pathetic, scoring after a clean line break in the first venture into the opposition 22 , and against wales away if something to be happy about; has everyone forgoten Ben Cohen's similar displays? Espeically seeing that apparently its rugby leagure style, its a pity because I doubt a pure union team would have scored that try with the close league style support. And how is a friday night game bad, it was an electrifying start to the six nations at the end of the working week after the most depressing month of the year and great way to start the weekend. Cheer up!

  • Comment number 53.

    6. At 08:35am on 05 Feb 2011, Bob wrote:
    I don't think we need Rugby League style celebrations in Rugby Union and Ashton should be given a ticking off for it.

    I don't recall seeing such celebrations in rugby league. You should be thanking league anyway. England's win was made in Wigan

  • Comment number 54.

    I thought the England performance was what you'd expect from the first game of the championship against Wales in Cardiff. We looked a bit nervous at the start and struggled to get out of first gear in the first ten minutes. We also gave away some stupid penalties and turnovers throughout which allowed Wales back into the game, but these are things which can hopefully be cut out as the confidence and momentum grows.

    As the game went on I was encouraged by how England stepped up the tempo with the loose forwards picking up yards before Youngs and Flood got the back line moving with pace. Hopefully as the championship goes on, and with Croft back (although Wood had an excellent debut), we can get into this rhythm consistently because it is hugely effective and the back three of Ashton, Foden and Cueto is one of the best in the world at the moment.

    So all in all we got the job done and I think we will improve as the championship goes on. I do think there is a question mark over the centre pairing of Hape and Tindall because they are both similar players who are quite predictable in their attack. I'd rather see Flutey at 12 because he would bring a better balance to that backline but I doubt Johnson will change a winning side.

  • Comment number 55.

    Great game, great atmosphere but I diosagree with the comments about the referee.

    I dont think the referee made a difference as he was bad but unbiased but I struggled to understand his interpretation. Both sides were penalised for using their hands in a ruck which is correct but he also pinged players for coming through the ruck and using their feet!

    Why was Deacon penalised? The ball was out of the ruck in the hands of the scrum half, that is open play and the ruck is over so Deacon can do what he wants as long as he wasnt offside before the ruck was over!

    The referee seemed to want to go back to the interpretation we had 2 years ago that was killing the game with no competition at the ruck.

    Please please referee the laws so that players stay on your feet at the ruck and allow aggresive rucking again. All attacking sides seal off the ruck now by going off their feet but hardly ever get pinged. Zero tolerance for going off your feet and not rolling away would result in a faster game!

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 57.

    Stadium announcer....."COME ON WALES". Disgraceful repeated and biased. I sat in the stadium fuming. I expect stadium announcers to be neutral. This its a disgraceful development and hopefully not repeated elsewhere

  • Comment number 58.

    ...and yes I will be contacting the WRU about it

  • Comment number 59.

    Well Matt, in the game I saw,England spent the best part of an hour pummelling the Welsh into almost complete submission and yet in the end had to spring the pensioners from the bench to hold on for what was a very unconvincing victory. Where were the young up and coming prospects - or have ye only got two of them, Lawes & Croft - that are going to take English rugby forward? I think I could make a fair case for going backwards out of that!!

  • Comment number 60.

    I don't think Brian Mooore is biased towards England at all, in fact IMO he's pretty critical. However I find him completely self opinionated and so eager to demonstrate ll his superior knowledge to the viewer.
    NOT my favourite commentator at all. Why does the BBC have an Englishman and a Welshman commentating on this game anyway?

  • Comment number 61.

    Competitive game maybe but it was seriously lacking in quality. The number of times players were unable to catch or collect a ball was staggering.

    Brian Moore - insightful, I don't think so. Example when England were camped on the Welsh line, about 6 times in 4 minutes he said the ball needed to go back to the second man but why? he didn't explain this. As an interested spectator who doesn't know the ins and outs this information is what I would expect from a summariser. Also getting his knickers in a twist when Wilkinson came on and having a go at some people for booing- do me a favour, for one i only knew people were booing because he pointed it out and 2) It's a Welsh home game what does he expect?

    Brian Moore and Jonathon Davies - I have thought for years if these two are the best the BBC can get then the others must be really poor.

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 63.

    Please van you answerer this question honestly
    1. Why is it that a referee can make rule changes or even invent a rule as the referee did yesterday in the Wales England game?
    2. Why if the referee does not see a forward pass cannot the assistant referee, that’s what they are, call his attention to the offence which they must have seen yesterday as he is seen in the same camera shot looking at the play in question
    3. The scrum is always a mystery to most people but in the game on Friday night it was so poorly refereed it became a joke if a forward stands up the ref must stop the scrum this referee did not do that.
    4. And something that Jonathon is always banging on about the killing of the ball at nearly every ruck and the referee ignoring the offences and the game suffering because of it
    5. And if a football referee made that many blatant mistakes he would be suspended or made to officiate at a lower league, but in Rugby referees are not even questioned they are not gods they must be asked after the game why they make such blatantly wrong decisions.
    6. I know that Wales could have played better but we will not play any better till the game is controlled better

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 65.

    Please can you answerer this question honestly
    1. Why is it that a referee can make rule changes or even invent a rule as the referee did yesterday in the Wales England game?
    2. Why if the referee does not see a forward pass cannot the assistant referee, that’s what they are, call his attention to the offence which they must have seen yesterday as he is seen in the same camera shot looking at the play in question
    3. The scrum is always a mystery to most people but in the game on Friday night it was so poorly refereed it became a joke if a forward stands up the ref must stop the scrum this referee did not do that.
    4. And something that Jonathon is always banging on about the killing of the ball at nearly every ruck and the referee ignoring the offences and the game suffering because of it
    5. And if a football referee made that many blatant mistakes he would be suspended or made to officiate at a lower league, but in Rugby referees are not even questioned they are not gods they must be asked after the game why they make such blatantly wrong decisions.
    6. I know that Wales could have played better but we will not play any better till the game is controlled better

  • Comment number 66.

    For all those people slagging off Brian Moore, he's not actually a commentator, he's an analyst, meaning he analyses each of the referees decisions and various aspects of the play. He's not as biased as people are making out; he criticises England just as much as he praises them, and the same for Wales. Anyway, Ian Robertson is Welsh (the other commentator) so it makes sense to have a bit of friendly Anglo-Welsh rivalry in the commentary box.

    As for the match, great game, very enjoyable from the point of view of an England fan, just hope they can start to produce performances with regularity now...Youngs and Flood are a good combo, the pack has strength in depth, and the backs are starting to fire, although I do think a more creative 12 is needed, Shontayne Hape looked a little cumbersome last night. Hopefully the start of a new era in English rugby...

  • Comment number 67.

    I would like to comment on Martin Johnson's post match comment headlined here on BBC. He said he "is sure his team can play loads better". I find this kind of comment needlessly arrogant and derogatory to the losing side (even though it might be true).

    I have always thought it good to be a bad loser BUT England often give the impression of being bad winners. Any commects?

  • Comment number 68.

    Please van you answerer these questions honestly
    1. Why is it that a referee can make rule changes or even invent a rule as the referee did yesterday in the Wales England game?
    2. Why if the referee does not see a forward pass cannot the assistant referee, that’s what they are, call his attention to the offence which they must have seen yesterday as he is seen in the same camera shot looking at the play in question
    3. The scrum is always a mystery to most people but in the game on Friday night it was so poorly refereed it became a joke if a forward stands up the ref must stop the scrum this referee did not do that.
    4. And something that Jonathon is always banging on about the killing of the ball at nearly every ruck and the referee ignoring the offences and the game suffering because of it
    5. And if a football referee made that many blatant mistakes he would be suspended or made to officiate at a lower league, but in Rugby referees are not even questioned they are not gods they must be asked after the game why they make such blatantly wrong decisions.
    6. I know that Wales could have played better but we will not play any better till the game is controlled better

  • Comment number 69.

    Please can you answerer these questions honestly
    1. Why is it that a referee can make rule changes or even invent a rule as the referee did yesterday in the Wales England game?
    2. Why if the referee does not see a forward pass cannot the assistant referee, that’s what they are, call his attention to the offence which they must have seen yesterday as he is seen in the same camera shot looking at the play in question
    3. The scrum is always a mystery to most people but in the game on Friday night it was so poorly refereed it became a joke if a forward stands up the ref must stop the scrum this referee did not do that.
    4. And something that Jonathon is always banging on about the killing of the ball at nearly every ruck and the referee ignoring the offences and the game suffering because of it
    5. And if a football referee made that many blatant mistakes he would be suspended or made to officiate at a lower league, but in Rugby referees are not even questioned they are not gods they must be asked after the game why they make such blatantly wrong decisions.
    6. I know that Wales could have played better but we will not play any better till the game is controlled better

  • Comment number 70.

    @jb358 Maybe as an englishmen I am biased but Brian Moore's commentary is always great. He says what he thinks, and the banter between him and Eddie Butler is amazing (when Moore says he's gonna shut up but doesn't and Butler asks when the shutting up begins for example). On the Game, England playing like that won't win the World Cup, but the improvement needed to win the WC doesn't amount to much. The Difference in the game was who took the chances and who didn't, Wales paid for mistakes, England got away with them. Still a disappointing game for Scrummaging and Refereeing.

  • Comment number 71.

    Christopher Ashton! You naughty boy!
    It's quite depressing how dull some supporters seem to be. Footballers get away with anything from a synchronized gymnastic performance to a rendition of the full monty! And what about Ben Cohen against NZ in the 02 AIs?? this sort of behaviour is a must in such a hyped up occaision. Obviously if it were Northhampton vs Leeds, then yeah, that would be arrogant. But it wasn't.

  • Comment number 72.

    I blame those people who whistled Johnny Wilkinson. He is a living star for me. It was a tight game. England deserved to win but Wales was very closed. It is a shame they missed their two first penalties. They pay them cash afterwards. Anyway, it was a very good match. People would like their national team reach perfection but it is very hard to do. Still three matches to go for both teams. I watched a very good match on TV. A really heated one as I like. I can't wait to see France playing.

  • Comment number 73.

    Who we like/dont like is obviously subjective but Brian Moore is one of the reasons I love the BBC coverage, in much the same way I like watching athletics because of Michael Johnson/Steve Cram and F1 with Martin Brundle.

    Ex-Pros have an insight that other commentators cant

  • Comment number 74.

    Good result - For England - obviously. Still concerned by having probably one of the worst try conversion rates when camped on the opposition 5m line.

    The centres have no creativity either. We would have been battered by a SH team - thankfully we only up against Wales.

    We need to step it up for the World Cup, but under the backs and forward coach we are still lacking penetration.

  • Comment number 75.

    I can't believe the fuss about Brian Moore and Chris Ashton while Tom Fordyce is getting away with writing the following...

    'England's first win in Cardiff in eight years segues into three successive home matches, two of which they should win and one they will be very optimistic about.'

    This sort of arrogance will be England's undoing in this championship, they are an ordinary and unspectacular side. Despite the forward power, the wins against Australia and Wales were narrow and should/could have been narrower. This looks to be the tightest championship for many a year so how anyone can assume a win at this stage is quite staggering really.

  • Comment number 76.

    brian moore is hilarious - he is biased towards england but then so is davies towards wales. but at least moore will be honest when england are playing poorly or are indisciplined

  • Comment number 77.

    Once again an overrated load of rubbish from start to finish, it amazes me that we are force fed John Inverdale (a.k.a smug) and co hyping things for what seems like hours, only to find the game itself boring and slow. Watching this in the pub was torture and i was glad for the final whistle.

  • Comment number 78.

    Im not a massive Rugby fan, i don't support a team although i'll follow England! To be honest i didn't see much skill or tallent from either side, however i think England did enough to win the game. Is it me or is there alot more hoofing the ball up the pitch and into touch now?! Its dull to watch! I am pleased that there is some younger English players now who seem to be able to handle the occasion and look more than promising which is always good to see in any sport!

  • Comment number 79.

    Ashton is a very, very good player. Bit arrogant but so were many greats including Gareth E and JPR.

    Flood now coming of age. Great game. Palmer, Easter and Wood v impressive. Hape - bit of work to do.

    Mike Phillips - terrible game. Bradley Davies - bright spot for Wales. Powell, agree with comments above.

    Johnson - now starting to look comfortable as coach.

    Gatland - a man who knows his time is up (shame). Wales have talent but no confidence. I hope they beat Scotland as they are a better attacking side.

    Brian Moore is VFM. Not everyone's cup of tea but neither is Eddie Butler.

    6 Nations is the sporting highlight of the year (TdF a close second). And please 63,65,68,69, learn how to use your PC and stop talking rubbish.

  • Comment number 80.

    Cannot believe Brian Moore is getting so much criticism and no-one has made any comment on his unbelievably bias co-commentator Eddie Butler! Butler is not so much bias but just obviously hates England. Eddie Butler's commentary ruins the six nations for me and almost makes me switch off sometimes. The silence from Eddie Butler when Wales commit a foul, or do something un-to-rule is deafening. I've never known a commentator be so anti-England its ridiculous.

    Also Jonathan Davies, who I do have a lot of time for, embarrassed himself on the post match analysis by trying to defend that trip, and he knew it.

  • Comment number 81.

    As ever, I agree with most of your observations Tom, but a couple of areas of disagreement.

    I think the Wales' penalty misses in the first ten minutes were more significant in the outcome than you allow; apart from simple objective scoreboard pressure, it would have given Wales momentum and belief, qualities they sorely missed in the rest of the game, plus it would have put England in catchup mode and under greater pressure.

    Being at the game, I was surprised and delighted to see many more England fans present than at any previous Wales/England game in recent memory. I like to think that we made a difference as well, and take great pleasure from a rousing chorus of Swing Low after our second try which the Welsh fans falied to subdue depite their best efforts :-)

    Heartened though I was by the game, I thought England were no more than satisfactory; we conceded too many stupid penalties, and coughed the ball up in contact too often. In a similar vein, I can't reconcile the rave reviews of Flood's game management with what I saw; there were still a number of aimless kicks to nothing, and some failures to see overlaps and opportunities to go wide.

    In summary 6 out of 10 for England and could do better. Will we? I hope so.

    Wales were guilty of not taking their chances, and I think also guilty of fast-tracking Roberts, Davies and Shane Williams too quickly back into test rugby. They looked ring-rusty and struggled. I think they'll kick on and give Scotland a nasty surpise at Murrayfield

  • Comment number 82.

    Frustrating and disappointing for the Welsh fans that the team aren't playing anywhere near their potential at the moment. Don't seem to have any real direction or organisation and aren't playing with anything like the flair that this team showed at their peak. Hook certainly a good enough player that he has to be on the pitch, but he's not a full back. Not an international 10 yet, either. Hopefully he'll play there regularly when he gets to France and have a bit more experience to be a credible challenge to Jones or take over from him when he gives up international rugby. Until then, he should play centre, where his best games for Wales have been. Davies generally had a decent game last night, so for me it's Roberts, who was farily anonymous, who misses out for Scotland. Powell should, at most, be used only as an impact player from the bench until medical science has moved on enough to stop his brain rattling around in his skull. Thankfully, Ryan Jones looked better than he has for a while in a Welsh jersey. Philips, on the other hand, looked about the worst. Peel in next week, please.

    Good to see the ref trying to ref the scrum rather than continually resetting it. Thought Mitchell was unlucky (though foolinsh) to get a card compared to Ashton, given the field positions of two similar offences, but Davies' luck getting away with that trip balances that out. I'd like to see harsher penalties for defending players committing 'professional fouls' as a way of discouraging cynical play, especially given the rather dull 'professional' way of playing that teams employ to run down the clock when they are a man down. Not a great advert for the sport when there's a decent case to argue that Deacon was 'right' to get himself carded.

    England deserved their win. Outplayed Wales up front, in the backs and in their heads. They've come on a long way from the awful stodge that was served up early in MJ's reign - come the neutral games, it'll be good to see a team who can recognise numbers past 10! Bit early though, Tom, to mention Grand Slams and World Cups before we've seen France, Ireland or even Scotland play.

  • Comment number 83.

    Re 71 simplycherry

    Thankfully rugby union doesn't share the narcicissm rampant in football and sometimes in rugby league.

    Our cultural differences were best summed-up by Richard Hill in the twilight of his great career. After putting in one of the finest performances by even his superlative standards against the Ospreys - and virtually on one leg after multiple knee reconstructions - he refused to acknowledge media acclaim and simply said "It's not about me or any other player, it's about the team."

    Quite - Ashton take note. You're going to look very silly when you finally drop the ball going for the theatrical one-handed victory dive. And you really don't want to face Johnno when you do. Leave the theatrics and sad celebrations to Wendyball.

  • Comment number 84.

    As a welshman it was a slightly disappointing match in the end, and yet again we fail to convert any points (in fact lose more points) when we have an opponent in the sin bin. Hook is not a full back either, waste of probably the most skillful welsh player since Jonathan Davis (the legendary number 10 that is)- get him in as outside centre or outside half where he can get some damage done.

    As for the comments about Moore, I have to say I really like his style. He is biased at time, but then he is a passionate englishman so you cannot blame him for that - in fact I applaud him for it even if my own opinion is almost always biased the other way. His commentary on rules of the game, especially in the scrum is usually spot on.

  • Comment number 85.

    I like Brian Moore. Like to see a rematch between him and his ex teacher. Bias fine. Can't stand Eddie Butler who seems to think he is a poet and intellectual. Cliff Morgan was my favourite commentator.

    Wales nearly there (again). First try a bit soft and missed kicks unforgiveable. Toby Flood is ace, the ****. Wales just need a shrink, or to give Stephen Jones amphetamines.

  • Comment number 86.

    Brian Moore - must be a matter of mood & taste. When Wales were outplaying England a couple of years ago, I found him 'refreshingly honest' about their shortcomings and insightful about the technical aspects of the game. Last night, he was insightful about the scrum (though would love to know what he thinks about crooked lineout throwing) but refreshing honesty had become grating bias towards the end of the match. I suspect a neutral would take his ranting over Jiffy's, though. I honestly hadn't ever noticed Eddy Butler being biased against England/in favour of Wales... perhaps his 'professional neutrality' is in the eyes of the beholder.

  • Comment number 87.

    The comments above about Brian Moore are probably justified on both sides. I personally think he's great but can see how he can get on people's nerves.

    The problem is in the studio. I find it hard to believe how 2 vastly experienced and talented players (Guscott and Davies) can know so little about rugby. Their comments are almost always banal bordering on idiotic. When Guscott said (on tv and in his blog) that he had 'heard james was a good scrummager' I hit the roof! If his job is to analyse the game and comment on players in the build up shouldn't he maybe watch them play beforehand. Can you think of another job where you'd get away with not doing any preparation like that?

    As a side point, wasn't it beautiful watching Davies squirming after the game about the pretty blatant on Foden? (a yellow card at the very least)

  • Comment number 88.

    P.S. I did think it was great game as well.

  • Comment number 89.

    More annoying than commentators - which is part of the fun - is announcing man of the match before it's finished.

  • Comment number 90.

    Well done England, to me they always looked in control of the game.
    Thought the back row of England looked very good, especially in the first half. All this fuss about Ashton, poor lad. He scored two well worked tries and rather than commend him for this everyone moans about his celebrations!! Shane williams done a similar thing against Scotland last year and nothing was said then.
    Hopefully Warren Gatland will start looking at himself rather than deferring the spotlight on opposing players eg Hartley etc.
    Personally feel Wales are going backwards at the moment but i'm no expert, be interesting how Wales perform over the rest of the tournament, not very optimistic myself.
    Also i like Brian Moore, he's no more biased towards England than E Butler/ J Davies are for Wales. It's good banter which is said in good spirits.
    England were the better team and deserved the Victory, end of.
    They have a good chance of a Grandslam with their home advantage and good luck to them.

  • Comment number 91.

    Ideas to improve the game;

    1. Referee the ruck - penalise anyone off their feet who doesnt get out the way and allow aggressive rucking (not stamping) so that the players referee it themselves. Make it a mandatory yellow card to go off your feet at a ruck!

    2. Stop the HIT at the scrum. Let the Props engage first without a hit and then the back 5 bind on.

    3. Stop the clock at scrums until the ball is put in!

  • Comment number 92.

    In the days before internet I once tried to sell Jiffy and Guscott some encyclopedias. But they already knew everything.

  • Comment number 93.

    By the way I think Brian Moore was wrong in saying that the England forwards need to get the ball back 1 player at the maul - if you do that before the tackle is made its obstruction!

  • Comment number 94.

    Gatland has lost the plot and should concentrate on fixing the Welsh performance problems rather than taking cheap shots at the opposition.They have in Edwards a defence coach who is supposed to be one of the best but Flood strolled through after just 15 minutes to send Ashton in.
    The Welsh RU need to bring in a coach that at least can pick players in their best postions and stop inspiring the oppostion to the type of excellent performance we saw from Palmer and Harley in their line out roles last night.

  • Comment number 95.

  • Comment number 96.

    Don't know why some people are getting their knickers in a twist over Chris Ashton's celebration, as for the match thought England were always in control and should have won more comfortably.

  • Comment number 97.

    Brian Moore could hardly be more biased than Eddie Butler. After Shane Williams attempted reverse pass went to ground he audibly groaned. Pathetic! He always takes it as his personal duty to slate England in his articles for the guardian too.

  • Comment number 98.

    With two of the main talking points on this blog being Brian Moore's perceived bias and people not liking Ashton celebrating his try in the manner he did, can I ask people to cast their mind back to Wembley Stadium, Scott Gibbs about to cross the line after running through the English midfield and a certain Edddie Butler, imploring him to stop celebrating and just ground the ball.

    Anyway, for the record, Moore is a great pundit to have alongside Butler (who is a great commentator in the McLaren mould). He is quite open that he supports England, but his observations are often as not concise, relevant, objective and correct. His attitude to the referee is also a great example to set younger viewers.

    As for Ashton? Oh bloody lighten up. Yeah, he may drop it one day but probably not. If he does then he'll have learnt a very embarrassing lesson. Its a game, he loves playing it and he loves winning and he loves scoring tries. Personally, I enjoy seeing that exuberance.

  • Comment number 99.

    I suppose Brian Moore will be less biased when Jonathan Davies is less biased. So never, I'd have thought.

  • Comment number 100.

    Re: Ashton's Celebration
    Didn't Shane Williams do something similar in the last world cup against Fiji, in a game Wales went on to lose? Don't seem to remember 'Lovable' Shane getting the same treatment Ashton's received. Then again he's not English


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