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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 February 2008, 22:11 GMT
Red Dragon roars

James Hook
James Hook was the man of the match as Wales came from behind

By Bryn Palmer
BBC Sport at Twickenham

Was it real? Did we imagine it?

The look of disbelief on the faces of the Welsh players at the end said it all as they tried to take in the spectacular nature of their achievement.

Twenty years of pain and torture on Twickenham's old cabbage patch was consigned to history in the space of 15 crazy minutes that yielded 20 unanswered points to the Red Dragonhood.

They had stormed the ramparts of Fortress Twickenham in a manner inconceivable only moments before when England led 19-6 approaching the hour mark.

Welsh fans used to making the journey to south-west London could not have guessed at what was to come.

Over the last decade they had seen their team concede nearly 300 points at an average of 42 per game and it looked that way again as England dominated proceedings.

Crucially, in the five minutes before the interval, Waleskept their deficit to 10 points with some magnificent defence

But a James Hook penalty got Wales going again, Gavin Henson side-stepped his way past tacklers on a mazy run and another Hook penalty brought the visitors within range.

Belief surged through their ranks, and suddenly it was England who looked vulnerable, an impression reinforced when Mike Tindall was stretchered off.

When Jonny Wilkinson starts losing the plot, you know you're in business.

The celebrated fly-half's awful wild pass to the newly-arrived debutant Danny Cipriani was the cue for Wales to score two tries in a three-minute spell that may have changed not just the course of this match, but the championship itself.

606: DEBATE
BBC Sport's Bryn Palmer
Beating England on opening day three years ago in Cardiff instilled such self-belief and momentum that Wales went on to win the Grand Slam.

After his first game as coach, Warren Gatland may have similar expectations to dampen down now with two home games against Scotland and Italy next up.

If Wales, as the New Zealander acknowledged, can play "really poorly" in the first half and still win at Twickenham, how will they fare when they play well?

Crucially, in those final five minutes before the interval, they kept their deficit to 10 points with some magnificent defence that would have warmed the heart of Gatland's old mucker Shaun Edwards on this emotional day for Wales' new assistant coach.

Hook, named man of the match, pulled off a try-saving tackle on Paul Sackey and hooker Huw Bennett somehow got his arm under the ball to prevent the score.

When we get it right, we will eventually be a very good team

Warren Gatland
Then England kicked a penalty to touch, but Wales resisted the resultant catch-and-drive.

"If they had scored then, it could have been a different result, but our guys showed a lot of determination," said Edwards, whose brother Billy-Joe - who died four years ago in a car crash -would have been celebrating his 25th birthday on Saturday.

Instead Wales established a foothold in the game, grew stronger as it wore on, and had, in Mike Phillips, Henson, Hook and their new captain Ryan Jones, the talent and composure at the helm to seal the deal in the final 10 minutes.

Some England fans started leaving with two minutes left, when their side could still have mounted a last-ditch rescue act

Warren Gatland
Gatland was pragmatic after victory in his first game as coach
But Wales, who wound the clock down impressively until a late knock-on caused a nervous final minute, were not to be denied.

As referee Craig Joubert blew his whistle for the final time, Alix Popham and Phillips hugged each other amid scenes of joy and relief.

Gatland and Edwards, who orchestrated four major final victories at Twickenham in their Wasps days, grinned at each other and looked slightly sheepish as they shook hands with their current and former Wasps charges in the England side.

The marvellous Alun Wyn Jones, one of the heroes of the hour before injury forced him from the fray, hobbled back onto the pitch, helped by a team-mate on either shoulder, to salute the delirious Welsh fans on this historic day.

No longer will Jonathan Davies, Adrian Hadley, Mark Ring and the other heroes of 1988 be bombarded on a bi-annual basis for their thoughts on Wales' Twickenham hoodoo.

The monkey is off the back, the feel-good factor is back, and the "Land of our Fathers" is once again rich in promise and joyous expectation.

"The potential and raw material for this team is there," Gatland said later. "When we get it right, we will eventually be a very good team."

Most Welsh fans would settle for an average one if it produces results like this every week.



SEE ALSO
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Six Nations as it happened
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