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Thursday, 28 February 2019

Wales v England

Hello, me again. The one who wrote Autumn International roundups concluding that Wales were going to win the World Cup. This was based on a bit of statistics, a complete over-reaction to some very overdue victories over the Southern Hemisphere teams and much excitement about Wales having strength in depth at the right time in a World Cup cycle.
Performances against France and Italy weren’t spectacular and the theme in our house has been “oh well, a win’s a win”, but a winning run of 12 is not to be sniffed at. So, confidence was mixed going into the Wales v England fixture, which as history will relate was a stonking home victory. When Katy, editor of this esteemed blog, asked for a Welsh supporter to write up their view of the game, I leapt at the opportunity. Because if you read the rest of the press, Wales only won because England capitulated? Maybe, just maybe, Wales played rather well?!

Arise Sir Shaun
Wales’ defence was calm and well-organised. In fact, it was Tom Curry’s try in the first half that gave me hope that Wales could win. England’s midfield performance was exceptional in the first two Six Nations matches, with Henry Slade running rampant and scoring a brace of tries against Ireland. In the phases before Curry’s try, it looked as though Wales were in for more of the same, with a great run from Slade. However, the Welsh didn’t let him through and made England work far harder than they have been to score. It was only Tipuric choosing a bad moment for a power nap, in an otherwise very strong game for him and the rest of the back row.
The Welsh midfield didn’t sizzle to the casual observer until the latter stages, but Davies was impressive in defense and Josh Adams’ tackle on Jonny May was masterful in its timing, because he’s a bit quick if you miss him.

Patience is a virtue
I was only half-joking when I proclaimed to the rest of the sofa commentary team in our house during the second half that “Wales will score a try eventually, all they need is 65 minutes and 40 phases” but I wasn’t expected to be proven quite so correct (although it may have only been 35). The Welsh team were consistently tenacious with their possession, cycling through far more attacking rucks than the opposition, and varying what they did with the ball, be it wide passes or pick-and-go, while England booted down the fairway again.

Tactical nous and the wonders of a specialist full-back
It did not take hours of video-analysis of the first two England victories to work out that they a) liked playing a high ball and b) scored points by dropping it behind the back 3. However, against Ireland and France, they were playing that game against Henshaw (a centre) and Huget (a winger) at #15 respectively. If you try it against a specialist full-back who knows where to stand, it doesn’t work. Liam Williams was outstanding on Saturday and a well-deserved Man of the Match recipient. He was run from pillar to post by the opposition at the start of the match, but he kept his head and we rejoiced watching him make Farrell’s life very difficult.

World-class discipline
Three penalties. That’s how many Kyle Sinckler conceded. No, I’m not having a pop at his mental state, he had a reasonable game and didn’t lose his cool nearly as much as we may have been hoping for. However, it is also precisely the same number that Wales conceded in the ENTIRE match. My fellow Welsh supporters will be shouting that the first penalty was never a penalty and it should have only been two, but it nets off against a very cheeky bit of obstruction by Professor Moriarty that everyone in the world saw apart from Jaco Peyper, so let’s just stick with three. I love a bit of stats, me, so I’ve been crawling over ESPN’s statsguru to see just how low this is. The answer is Very Low. See below a pretty graph that shows the winning teams from this weekend, plus a few other matches that people have been excited about and some world cup finals…

Strength In Depth
Biggar or Anscombe to start at fly-half? Moriarty or Faletau for #8? Halfpenny or Williams at full-back? Frankly who cares – what a delicious debate to be able to have. I’m not going to tempt fate, but I’m daring to dream… Will Tokyo be Wales’ Utopia????


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