Wales skipper’s greatest day

Wales skipper Ryan Jones hailed his team’s stunning 26-19 Six Nations win over England in London on Saturday as the greatest day of his career.

Wales were 16-6 down at the break and were still trailing by 10 points with 20 minutes left before they ran in two tries to record their first victory at Twickenham in 20 years.

”It’s the most fantastic day of my career,” said Jones, one of 13 Neath-Swansea Ospreys in new coach Warren Gatland’s first Welsh team.

”It was a fantastic effort and the win was thoroughly deserved. Even when we were 10 points down we had belief in ourselves. We have worked really hard and we knew we were good enough. We came here with a small squad and we turned them over on their own patch,” the number eight added.

Flyhalf James Hook was named man of the match after nailing six out of six goal kicks and playing a crucial role in his side’s first try.

”The boys have believed in each other all week,” said Hook. ”We came out after the second half and believed in ourselves. We kept the ball and wore England down.”

Wales’s last visit to Twickenham, before the World Cup, ended in the embarrassment of a record 62-5 defeat and a proud Gatland said the significance of Saturday’s score line could not be underestimated. ”The result is everything. It’s a monkey off the guys’ back. They showed a lot of guts and dug deep.”

But former Ireland boss Gatland admitted that, at half-time, hopes of Wales’s first win at Twickenham since an 11-3 success in 1988 were very much in the balance.

”The first half was very poor,” said the New Zealander. ”The message before half-time was to hang in there and not concede again, play a bit of rugby and respect the ball. The pleasing thing was the longer the game wore on, the stronger we got.”

Shaun Edwards, Gatland’s former sidekick at Wasps who is now combining his work for the European champions with a part-time Wales role, said the visitors’ defence in denying England a second try, when hooker Huw Bennett got his arm under the ball as Paul Sackey plunged over, had been crucial to the outcome.

”The defensive set in the last five minutes of the first half was vital,” said Edwards, whose team were rocked by Toby Flood’s 23rd-minute score. ”They only scored one try and that was from a kick. To concede only one try from a kick at Twickenham is very creditable.”

Gatland, looking ahead to Wales’s next match at home to Scotland a week on Saturday, warned fans against expecting too much too soon. ”It doesn’t happen overnight. Physically, we’ve got a lot of work to do. The potential raw material for this team is there. When we do get it right, we will be a very good side.”

England coach Brian Ashton, whose team now face a tricky assignment away to an Italy side that ran Ireland close before losing 16-11 earlier on Saturday, was at a loss to explain his team’s collapse in the final quarter. ”Rather than make any rash judgements publicly, we need to sit down and talk about it.”

He added: ”Wales came back extremely well. One of our messages was not to feed them, but in the second half we took all our food out of the cupboard.” — Sapa-AFP

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Julian Guyer
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