Wales seal historic win over England
February 5, 2005
Gavin Henson lands the winning penalty against England
© Getty Images
Gavin Henson capped a magnificent personal performance at centre with the match-winning penalty as Wales beat the old enemy in Cardiff for the first time in 12 years.
Henson was called up in place of Steve Jones, who had tackled superbly but had a poor afternoon with the boot, five minutes from time when Josh Lewsey was penalised for not releasing near the right-hand touch-line around 40 metres out.
Henson, making his Six Nations debut, landed the kick with the same aplomb with which he had done everything all afternoon - inflicting some ferocious tackles on opposite number Mathew Tait and giving Wales a vital second playmaking option that England lacked until Ollie Barkley was introduced midway through the second half. Wales hung on with comparative ease and were on the England line, seeking the score that would have put victory beyond doubt, as the match ended.
It had looked for much of the second half as though this might be another near-miss for Wales, as the English forwards gradually established a clear ascendancy after the break. Outside-half Charlie Hodgson's 69th minute penalty, giving England the lead for the first time, looked as though it might be decisive.
Both teams had been punished early for weaknesses at the set piece. Wales opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a try initiated when Martyn Williams stole a wayward English throw at the back of the line. Wales attacked twice across the width of the field, creating a double overlap that allowed Shane Williams to cross on the left for his 22nd try in 24 internationals.
Steve Jones failed with the conversion, but England Hodgson was on the mark five minutes later after Wales had lost control on their own scrum put-in.
Wales enjoyed a slight territorial edge in a disjointed half in which the prospects of open play were hardly aided by the huge divots being thrown up as the Millennium Stadium pitch again fell below standard.
England had clearly decided that Wales wing Hal Luscombe was vulnerable under the high ball and peppered him with kicks, but got little change from the tactic.
Wales extended their lead in the 23rd minute when England flanker Chris Jones was penalised for stamping. But their best chance of a further try was lost ten minutes later as they drove from a five yard scrum. Skipper Gareth Thomas, enraged to see England lock Danny Grewcock strike Dwayne Peel as the scrum-half awaited his chance to pounce for the line, ran 15 yards to hit Grewcock. Referee Alain Rolland rightly sin-binned Grewcock, fortunate to have escaped notice for a worse offence when Jones had been penalised 10 minutes earlier, but also despatched Thomas and reversed the penalty award, allowing England to clear.
The reshuffle forced on Wales's backs allowed Henson to demonstrate his panoply of skills with a superbly nonchalant take of a dangerously bouncing ball, a try-saving tackle on England wing Josh Lewsey and an immense touch-finder which took play to within yards of the English line as the half ended with Wales's 8-3 lead reflecting their slight, but far from decisive, first half superiority.
They came to Murrayfield looking to put down a marker, but Scotland were sent home with their tails between their legs, writes Tristan Barclay
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland
"This team deserves to be recognised as the greatest of all time." Huw Richards looks at Gareth Edwards' final match for Wales