Not much as England hang on for victory. It was in that time of the biennial experience that is the Welsh visit to Twickenham that on Saturday we brushed off our Max Boyce songsheets and settled down to watch a game of rugby at the highest level.
How times change, it is no longer a January Trip, and all the weekly shillings that you could save would not even stand you a pint of bitter in the Fulham Volunteer (if it still called that), and the result well… The times when Wales could turn up at Twickenham and fully expect an emphatic victory are now buried in the dim mists of time.
It seemed that way again as two Johnny May tries and a team inspired by the immaculate kicking from hand game of Owen Farrell threatened to swamp the Welsh. But that was only the half of it, Welsh resilience came to the fore and slowly they dragged themselves back into the game. Penalties from Patchell and Anscombe put Wales within a converted try of victory. However, the most controversial moment of this thrilling game came before halftime when the TMO, Mr Glenn Newman, decided that Anthony Watson had beaten Gareth Anscombe in touching down a kick ahead over the England try line. We all have our own versions of that, but when Sir Clive Woodward calls a try for Wales, you must know that you are on the right path.
The Welsh side again, for the second Saturday in a row, put up a huge performance Shingler amongst others once more putting in an immense shift, but this observer could not help but wonder how many more penalties would have been converted and how much more resilient the Welsh defence would have been, had Halfpenny’s foot been less infected.
The pre-match hype revolved around Eddie Jones mind games, and, when in a test match that was this close, the difference between the sides being fag paper thin, small things make the difference. When you are concentrating on how you will prove Eddie wrong, you may not be concerning yourself with what you should be doing for your game to excel. Gatland is no stranger to these tactics and, like conning the referee for a penalty at the scrum, it’s only great if your own team does it.
There was a long barren period in the second half, when points were few and far between, but this was a game for the purists, a proper test match by any consideration and like nature was red in tooth and claw. Wales by any criteria must consider themselves unlucky not to have come away with a win, but you do make your own luck, and harking back to Max Boyce and his prayer for the ages “dear God if we do have to lose to the English, please make it controversial.” Well that happened. In Wales the disappointment will be unmitigated, but as rugby lovers we should be proud that this game of ours could serve up such a rich dish.
Author: Ian Muir