Congratulations have to go to Wales. The way they have reacted to the loss of key personnel before the tournament and adapted in the last 20 minutes to not only consolidate, but galvanise as key players were stretchered off, was impressive. They turned up the pressure in the 2nd half and took crucial points in the last 12 minutes. As per Wembley 1999, Dan Biggar kept the scoreboard board ticking over, aka Neil Jenkins, and when the opportunity came, Lloyd Williams intelligently left footed a kick into open space for Gareth Davies to touch down under the posts. Biggar will take the plaudits with his points scoring but was also immensely impressive all round game and high ball receipts under pressure.
For 60 minutes, England would have been happy with the exception of their defensive breakdown. The scrum was dominant, seemingly winning penalties at will. The lineout was well choreographed, stealing the oppositions ball and applying pressure, forcing not straight delivery. With Wales expecting big runners up the middle, England passed out the back, behind dummy runners, creating space to run into. This was the case as in the build up to England’s try and at the 2nd attempt, Ben Youngs seized the opportunity down the blindside to send Jonny May over in the corner.
Billy Vunipola was to fore with his ball carries. He made considerable metres with his kick returns. He had the ball in his hands early, put his head down and challenged defenders desire to get a shot on him. Ben Youngs was at his best best, sniping around the edges in to holes, not allowing Wales to get set or quick linespeed. Sadly, both were to leave the field with knocks. Let’s hope they are just knocks.
Sadly the sight of Jerome Garces bent forward, two straight arms pointing towards the grass, became a too vivid image of the night. It is a directive of all referees at the World Cup, to look at this area of the game. We got our best success by targeting the ball and attempting to steal, rather than potentially looking for the penalty. If that fails, we must trust our defence and not target the breakdown so hard.
With 3 minutes to go, there was a decision of whether to take a penalty attempt at goal to potentially level the scores, or go for the lineout drive for the try. You have to trust the leaders on the pitch, they are feeling the momentum of the game and make the call. Japan made the call last week. It came off for them, we applauded. Sadly, from a patriotic point of view, Wales predicted the front ball drive and took appropriate action to smash the catcher on landing and counter drive into touch.
England’s World Cup
Losing is a painful experience at this level, England’s World Cup is not over but Australia becomes a must win. England are into the knock out stages early. Saturday has to be put to bed early. Debrief…agree learning experiences…apply into training…move on.
It’s time to circle the wagons and fight outwards. I certainly believe in this group of players and coaching staff. Australia are a talented team but with the crowd behind them, I am confident we will all rally England towards a famous victory.