Johnson hails fierce contest
August 6, 2011
Lewis Moody limped off in the second-half of England's win over Wales © Getty Images
England boss Martin Johnson was pleased see his team pushed to their limits as they eventually defeated Wales 23-19 at Twickenham.
England were outscored in the match by Wales three tries to two in a stark contrast to the last time these two sides met at Twickenham prior to a World Cup where England ran out 62-5 victors. For Johnson however, he was pleased with the overall performance but sees room for improvement ahead of next Saturday's return clash at the Millennium Stadium.
"I'd rather win a game like that than score 60 points and have everyone think you're great," Johnson said. "I said before the game that it was a pre-season game and it looked like that at times - it lost a lot of momentum in the second half.
"We had to defend virtually for the last half-hour. We did lots of good bits and there were opportunities that we didn't take, but there were mistakes that really hurt us as well."
Johnson will be buoyed by the performance of fly-half Jonny Wilkinson. The World Cup winning fly-half scored 13 points - including two drop-goals - in England's win and puts pressure on Toby Flood to keep his fly-half spot in the process.
"At times we clicked and won that ball quick and looked like we could get the edge or make a few breaks," Johnson said. "Other times if we missed a clean out or didn't run hard, they slowed it down and it became a little bit more difficult.
"I thought Jonny controlled the game fantastically well for us and managed it. That's what we said before, that we'll go and play the game in the context of the game, and he dropped the goals to keep us going forward when we lost momentum and that was a big difference in the end."
Wilkinson agreed with Johnson's assertion that it had a pre-season feel saying: "It was classic early season stuff with a few issues to sort out. We did some good things and some that were not quite so good but, in the end, we found enough answers."
One of those answers was supplied by Manu Tuilagi who marked his England debut with a try. "I'm pretty pleased with my performance," he said. "I got a good try on my debut so I couldn't ask for a lot better."
Meanwhile, Wales coach Warren Gatland, who described Sam Warburton as "one of the best 7s in the northern hemisphere," also appeared satisfied with Wales' showing. He said: "We're pretty happy with that. We've scored three tries to their two. We've put in a strong second-half performance and we can build on it. We can improve on our accuracy but our first up tackling was pretty good and it's a good start for us overall.
"We showed a lot of patience in England's 22 and created a lot of good stuff. I thought the bench made an impression when they came on. Ryan Jones did a great job in particular. We had talked up Scott Williams and he was excellent too. We were able to up the tempo in the second half and I was really pleased with the energy we showed.
"It looked as though England had done a lot more rugby work than we had - there are a couple of things we can improve on but we will take a lot of positives. The players felt pretty good and as a coach you want selection problems. It is nice to have those discussions in selection."
Shane Williams - who scored once during the match - took confidence from Wales' storming finish saying: "Certainly the fitness work we've done worked because we kept going right to the end. We also played some nice rugby and scored a few tries.
"The first game is always a bit rusty and England were the same. But, to be fair to them, in the end they deserved it because their play in a few areas was a bit more clever than ours."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene
As Ray McLoughlin prepares to celebrate his 75th birthday, Huw Richards pays tribute to the man and the selectors who had the wisdom to bring him into the Ireland fold