Six Nations 2008
Match report: Wales fight back for historic win
February 2, 2008
Date/Time: Feb 2, 2008, 16:30 local, 16:30 GMT
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
England 19 - 26 Wales
Attendance: 82000  Half-time: 16 - 6
Tries: Flood
Cons: Wilkinson
Pens: Wilkinson 3
Drops: Wilkinson
Tries: Byrne, Phillips
Cons: Hook 2
Pens: Hook 4
Wales full-back Lee Byrne celebrates scoring against England, England v Wales, Six Nations, Twickenham, February 2 2008.
Lee Byrne celebrates scoring Wales' first try
© Getty Images

Despite trailing 19-6 early in the second half Wales fought back - with tries from Lee Byrne and Mike Phillips - to score an epic 26-19 win over England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Wales scored 20 unanswered points in the space of just 13 second-half minutes as England self-destructed. Despite the loss of four players to injury, England had comfortably been on top and opened up a 19-7 lead with a try from Toby Flood and 12 points from Jonny Wilkinson before Wales hit back.

The former New Zealand rugby league international came off the bench to replace the injured David Strettle - and within minutes he had climbed above Mark Jones to claim a cross-field kick and slip the offload for Flood on the inside.

It was a deserved score for England and for Flood, who produced a confident and inventive first 40 minutes. Jonny Wilkinson landed the conversion along with two penalties and a drop goal as England dominated Wales in all the key areas. As England charged after the kick-off, Martyn Williams was penalised allowing Jonny Wilkinson to slot the first penalty of the day.

James Hook, who scored a full-house in Wales' victory over England in last year's Six Nations, responded immediately to draw the visitors level. David Strettle then lit up Twickenham in the way Robinson used to with an electric break from inside his own half, evading Gavin Henson's tackle to scythe through Wales' broken defence.

As Shane Williams closed him down, the Harlequins winger tried to chip the ball through to himself but could not find the finishing touch. That was to prove Strettle's last contribution of the afternoon as he limped off with an apparent foot injury after just 12 minutes - to be replaced by Vainikolo, who received a rapturous ovation from the Twickenham faithful.

England also lost Lewis Moody to injury inside the opening quarter of an hour - while Wales had to replace flanker Jonathan Thomas who appeared to be knocked out in a tackle from Wilkinson. Amidst the rattle of substitutions, Wilkinson slotted a second penalty and, despite Williams' presence, England were bossing the breakdown and snatched five turnovers in quick succession.

Vainikolo almost wiped out Wales winger Mark Jones, before Wilkinson extended England's advantage with a routine drop-goal. England and Vainikolo had already fired the warning shot to Wales and Jones, who had no answer to the former New Zealand rugby league international's pace, power and size.

Wilkinson lofted a pin-point cross-field kick to Vainikolo, who rose above Jones and then slipped a neat offload to Toby Flood for England's opening try of the championship. Flood sparked another England break from deep as he danced around Henson as the cohesion and continuity that Gatland was banking on with 13 Ospreys in the same team was swiftly eroded from Wales' game.

Hook slotted a second penalty after Andrew Sheridan was penalised for pulling Ian Gough down in the lineout - but Wales continued to make careless errors. Ryan Jones immediately gave Wilkinson the chance of a reply by not rolling away, though he was let off as Wilkinson sent his kick left.

There was little respite for Wales as Iain Balshaw surged into the England line from full-back and beat his opposite number Lee Byrne with ease before feeding James Haskell on the gallop. Paul Sackey powered through Hook's tackle but could not ground the ball as Huw Bennett dived in to rescue Wales.

From a position of strength England then capitulated in remarkable fashion, losing all composure as a series of careless mistakes allowed Wales to draw within a converted score. A huge tackle from Haskell on Shane Williams had given England solid field position in the Welsh half - but a chaotic passage of play ended with Gomarsall's pass failing to find Balshaw and Hook slotting his fourth penalty.

In the middle of it all, Mike Tindall was injured and carried from the field as England lost their fourth player of the afternoon. Suddenly England were all over the place. Wilkinson fired a wayward pass in the vague direction of Danny Cipriani, whose first experience of Test rugby was to be dumped on his backside by Martyn Williams.

From nowhere, Wales could sniff victory and Hook created the opening with an elusive run inside Sackey and outside Shaw before Byrne charged over for the try. Hook's conversion drew the scores level but there was more to come from Wales as England self-destructed.

Balshaw's kick was charged down by Mike Phillips, who received the ball back from Martyn Williams to stretch over in the corner. Hook's conversion made it 20 unanswered points for Wales in the space of 13 minutes and sealed a remarkable victory to open Gatland's new era.

England: Tries: Flood. Cons: Wilkinson. Pens: Wilkinson 3. Drop Goals: Wilkinson. England: Balshaw, Sackey, Tindall, Flood, Strettle, Wilkinson, Gomarsall, Sheridan, Regan, Vickery, Shaw, Borthwick, Haskell, Moody, Narraway, Rees.

Replacements: Cipriani for Tindall (64), Vainikolo for Strettle (13), Mears for Regan (58), Stevens for Vickery (69), Rees for Moody (14), Kay for Rees (41).
Not Used: Wigglesworth.

Wales: Tries: Byrne, Phillips. Cons: Hook 2. Pens: Hook 4.

Wales: Byrne, M. Jones, Parker, Henson, S. Williams, Hook, Phillips, A. Jones, Bennett, D. Jones, A. Jones, Gough, J. Thomas, M. Williams, R. Jones.

Replacements: Shanklin for Parker (46), Jenkins for A. Jones (46), Rees for Bennett (58), Evans for A. Jones (78), Popham for J. Thomas (13).
Not Used: Cooper, S. Jones.

Att: 82,000
Ref: Craig Joubert (South Africa).


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