England 30-17 Wales: Post Match Analysis

7 02 2010

What follows is a collaboration between our first guest contributor Mr. Follett and Bradders:

England started their 6 Nations campaign with a good result yesterday, beating Wales by the comfortable margin of 13 points. Whilst the margin of victory was large, it was ultimately flattering to England and Wales will have been disappointed that, with the scores at 20-17, they were unable to press for the win.

Starting in the forwards, there was both good and bad on show. Haskell fully deserved his man of the match award, putting in a performance to silence his persistent doubters. Nick Easter had a solid match and provided a game breaking moment with his charge into the Welsh 22, enabling Care to pick up and score near the posts. Moody, whilst not at his omnipresent best, as he was in the autumn internationals, was industrious and helped ensure England did not go backwards in the loose. With the Welsh lineout operating astoundingly poorly for much of the game, Borthwick and Shaw were able to take advantage, stealing Welsh throw in ball on more than one occasion. The bad, however, came predictably in the form of England’s scrum, which on more than one occasion creaked alarmingly. Whilst never being in full retreat, England escaped lightly as on at least two occasions Wilson was not penalized for pulling the scrum down. Cole’s emergence in the second half immediately appeared to shore things up and he should start next weekend’s game against Italy.

Danny Care had one of his better games for England, scoring an excellent try he illustrated why Johnson had picked him. The same problems of speed of service remain however and he must share some of the blame for the lack of quick ball at the breakdown. This lack of regular quick ball ensured that attacking opportunities for England’s backs were limited. Compounded by Wilkinson’s tendency to stand a little deep and Flood’s lack of pace in the 12 channel suggests that a Wilkinson – Flood combination is probably not the answer. With Flutey expected to recover in time for next week’s game we hope that he will inject some much needed urgency and creativity. Wilkinson’s place kicking could not be faulted however and his kicking out of hand was vastly improved on the dire offerings of the autumn. This is not to say England kicked well as a whole, with there still being far too many aimless and misdirected kicks. With the back three looking threatening on the rare occasions they had the ball and clearly being one of the strengths of this England team, it is imperative that they get the ball in attacking situations more often.

Overall the win was all important and should provide confidence to this beleaguered England team. Undoubtedly the victory margin was flattering and ball in hand the Welsh looked infinitely more threatening although England did display some of the required clinical ability with Haskell’s second try.

Wales on the other hand, whilst looking more of and attacking threat ball in hand, were unfortunately guilty of too many disciplinary faults conceding several penalties. Alun Wyn-Jones was the main offender however with his calculated and crazy decision to trip Dylan Hartley meaning that he spent 10 minutes in the sin bin either side of half time. In this period Wales conceded 17 points and from that point on the game was as good as lost. Gatland has been astonishingly but justifiably forthright in his post match comments, strongly criticizing Wyn-Jones’ and practically blaming him for the loss.

Despite this, Hook scored a coruscating try, eluding 4 men to score under the posts and give Wales a sniff of victory. Unfortunately their adventure undid them in the end, with Jones throwing the pass that Armitage intercepted to put Flood, then Tait and then Haskell in for the last try.

All is not lost for Wales in this campaign, although the feeling remains that with the amount of talent and game breakers they have in their side, they should be doing a great deal better. Somehow Gatland needs a way to unleash Jamie Roberts, as since his return from the Lions tour he has been a strangely subdued player. Only once last night did he break the line as Wales pressed in the final 10 minutes. Lee Byrne also had a game to forget and it is possible that the will he, won’t he nature of his participation in the game may have affected him adversely.

With Scotland next weekend, Wales will have to pick up their performance substantially to ensure that they have what it takes to beat a defence minded Scottish side.

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