England denied Grand Slam in dying seconds
Celebrations after Scott Gibbs' last-gasp winning try deprived England of a Grand Slam © Getty Images
All England had to do was beat Wales at Wembley to secure the Grand Slam and for 83 minutes all went according to plan. But the dream died deep into added time when a last-gasp Scott Gibbs try to give Wales a 32-31 win. Wales were at 'home' in London while Cardiff was being rebuilt but England led until Gibbs' score sparked scenes of joy among the Welsh which could not have been greater had they won the Slam themselves. "I'm shattered and disappointed," England coach Clive Woodward said. "I don't believe the result and I won't believe it in the morning." The result handed the tournament to Scotland on points difference after they had defeated France 36-22 in Paris on the previous afternoon.
Twickenham hosted a competitive women's game for the first time, more than a decade after the supposed bastion of male aloofness, Lord's, did so. Richmond Ladies lost their national championship match to Wasps 19-0.
The price of fame. World Cup-winning star Jonny Wilkinson said he would not be signing anything after it emerged items were being sold for vast profits online. "People are buying his autograph and then selling it for thousands on the net," his agent explained. "When we produced 10,000 signed photographs for kids, even some of them ended up on eBay. Jonny is now saying that enough is enough. He is in the process of setting up his own charitable trust and everything will go through that." Comedian Bernard Manning was unimpressed. He asked Wilkinson for a signed England shirt for a charity auction but was rebuffed. "I can't believe it," he said. "We've got everyone from the likes of Sir Alex, Kevin Keegan, Alan Shearer and Sir Bobby Robson to sign things - the list is endless. Everyone we approached agreed, apart from Jonny Wilkinson."
France cut loose against Ireland in Paris scoring six tries in a 27-6 win played in perfect conditions. Surprisingly, referee Gwynne Walters was cheered from the pitch after a superb display, and that inspired the 35-year-old to reconsider his decision to retire at the end of the season. "I've been refereeing top-class games for 18 years or so. But I feel the new laws are a challenge. And 1 think it is wrong that experienced referees should duck nut when they will be most needed, during the teething period. I hope all experienced referees thinking of retiring will stay on at least one more season."
The lowest of low-key finale's to the all-white Pretoria Harlequins' tour of England as they drew 10-10 with Harlequins at The Stoop. Fearing demonstrations, the game was not advertised. Eddie Quist-Areton, the Quins back winger, declined to play in what the club said was "a personal decision".
Wembley Stadium, the home of English football, staged its first representative rugby match when the Scottish Service XV defeated their English counterparts 8-5. Twenty thousand turned up to see the Scots withstand a late English onslaught to win by two tries to one.
A rugby v soccer match under union rules was staged for the first time, between the Barbarians and the Corinthians at Queen's Club, Kensington. The novel game ended in a surprising win for the soccer men by 14-12.
French rugby, basking in its first Five Nations title, continued to shine. The French Army, fielding eight international players, dominated their British counterparts in the annual match winning 20-3 at the Stade Jean Bouin in Paris.
The Auckland Blues plucked an unknown student from obscurity to play fly-half against the Cats in Whangarei. Blues Colts' James Arlidge, then 21, admitted that he thought the Blues manager Sean Fitzpatrick had got the wrong number when he called to bring him into the senior squad. The Hamilton-born Arlidge went on to win 32 caps for Japan.
Llanelli's hopes of advancing beyond the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup were dashed by Perpignan at Stradey Park. The Scarlets sorely missed Dafydd Jones, sent off after 10 minutes, and crashed out 26-13.