Johnson frustrated by defeat
August 13, 2011
England captain Mike Tindall is upended during their defeat to Wales © Getty Images
England team manager Martin Johnson could barely hide his frustration after seeing his side's World Cup preparations receive a jolt as they failed to capitalise on their dominance in a 19-9 defeat to Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
The visitors had the game in a vice-like grip during the opening half, putting the Welsh setpiece under huge pressure and spending the majority of the first 40 minutes camped in the home 22. But they failed to make the most of an impressive pack performance as they went in at 6-6 at half-time, Toby Flood and Rhys Priestland kicking two penalties apiece.
Wales, who played 20 minutes of the game a man down as Jamie Roberts and Mike Phillips were sin-binned, and also lost Gavin Henson to a wrist injury, had more of a foothold in the game after the break and a try, conversion and two penalties from James Hook gave Warren Gatland's side a morale-boosting win following last weekend's 23-19 defeat at Twickenham.
England have made steady progress over the last 12 months as they close in on the start of their World Cup campaign. But Johnson sternly admitted the display in their final warm-up game before he names his 30-man squad was not good enough.
"I am disappointed," he said. "It was the strangest game I have seen I think, to dominate a game so much in the first half and go in at 6-6, and let it get away from us like we did in the second half is disappointing.
"It is where it is in the scheme of things but it was pretty frustrating to say the least. You come in and work for big Test matches and you should not let games like that go. Both sides made errors, it's that time of year, but its annoying. I've not lost sight of the bigger picture but it does not help your emotions straight after the game.
"To have that much of the game and be 6-6, if we had kicked on and squeezed them the opportunities would have come, but we let it slip away."
Much of England's problems lay with a three-quarter line that failed to make the most of the swathes of possession that came their way, with the centre pairing of Mike Tindall and Shontayne Hape proving particularly ineffectual. But Johnson insisted that his side had created more than enough chances to triumph.
"We made mistakes and did not score points when we were down there, it's pretty simple," he said. "We had the chances, we made breaks. Mike (Tindall) went through on one, (Matt) Banahan should have gone in in the corner and Danny Care went through, so we had plenty of opportunities but we didn't finish them off, we could have been scrummaging on their line now (and we wouldn't have scored).
"It would be good to see the detail of the game. There is a lot we need to get better at, some guys have not played for a long time, which is a factor, but even so we had enough opportunities to win the game by some distance."
Wales coach Warren Gatland, meanwhile, was left to reflect on a fantastic defensive display from his side, with captain and man of the match Sam Warburton leading a Herculean effort.
"We are pleased with the win, we said all week that it was about us winning and sending a message that after last week we could pick up a big win over one of the top sides in the world," Gatland said. "We have lots of things to work on but the priority today was definitely about winning.
"We were defensively strong and competed hard at the breakdown. I thought Sam was outstanding at number seven and that effort stopped them being able to get momentum and get fast ball and put us under pressure.
"We have done a lot of work and they didn't throw anything at us we didn't expect which is credit to the analysts, the coach and the players and how they prepared."
Gatland also praised his players for their reaction to defeat at Twickenham seven days ago, explaining that they chose to turn down the chance of a post-game drink to begin their preparations for the game.
"To come back last week from Twickenham where we were happy with the performance, although we were not happy with the result, they had the opportunity to go to the bar and have a drink for a couple of hours," he said. "But to say no we aren't going to have a drink, we are going to recover, wake up tomorrow and think about England - as a coach I am proud of that and it's a turnaround in our mental attitude."
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