Clueless England humbled
Visitors unable to turn dominance into points
Last Updated: 15/08/11 9:53am
James Hook scores for Wales
Wales beat England 19-9 at the Millennium Stadium in the old rivals' World Cup warm-up re-match.
James Hook scored the only try of the game as Wales avoided back-to-back defeats, but it was England's hapless attacking play which caught the eye.
The visitors dominated set-pieces, possession and territory but were unable to pierce the Welsh defence.
It was almost inconceivable that England could not turn countless chances into points, yet somehow they contrived to keep Wales in the game and Hook, with a second-half try, a conversion and two penalties, made them pay.
England's midfield combination of Mike Tindall and Shontayne Hape was exposed as desperately slow and one-dimensional, while Matt Banahan failed to finish England's best chance on the right wing, which the injured Chris Ashton would surely have taken.
There was nothing in England's display to worry any of the Tri-Nations sides in the slightest - when they watch the tape of this display, they are probably in more danger of injuring themselves laughing.
Both teams set out their stall by performing at a furious tempo from the start, with Rhys Priestland and Toby Flood exchanging early penalties before a second Priestland strike nudged Wales 6-3 ahead.
Much of Wales' front-foot play was created by the offensive work of Gavin Henson and his midfield partner Jamie Roberts, who relished the physical nature of their tussle with Mike Tindall and Shontayne Hape.
Up-front, though, it was a different story as England exerted plenty of pressure.
After successive scrum penalties, Alain Rolland looked set to award England a penalty try, but Wales escaped when Henson ankle-tapped Hape and then hoofed the ball downfield.
A second Flood penalty levelled things up and England began to enjoy consistent territorial pressure.
Scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, who had taken a knock, was then replaced by Danny Care, before Henson - who appeared to be holding his arm - made way for Scott Williams nine minutes before the break.
England kept battering away inside the Wales 22, but their lack of craft and guile behind the scrum was exposed, and Wales held out.
Even after Care made a scorching 40-metre break, and then Tindall ran free, England could not finish off, somehow turning quick ball into slow ball, while also continuing to concede penalties at the breakdown.
Priestland did not reappear for the second period, being replaced by Aled Brew. Hook moved to fly-half and Shane Williams took on full-back duties.
But before Wales could settle into their new formation, Flood kicked England in front after Roberts was sin-binned for killing the ball.
Rolland was rapidly running out of patience, and Banahan received a ticking-off after further technical indiscipline, although he avoided seeing yellow.
Wales, perhaps not quite believing England's profligacy in attack, rallied well as the third quarter neared its conclusion, and a spell of pressure resulted in Hook darting over by the sticks after the ball was quickly recycled.
England still had plenty of pressure in the closing 15 minutes, not least because Mike Phillips was sin-binned for the final 10 for going over the top.
But they continued to waste it - the final chance disappearing when Courtney Lawes failed to hold on to an England lineout ball 10 metres out.
Wales cleared and closed out the game after England were yet again pinged at the breakdown and Hook fired over his second penalty from halfway.