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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 November, 2003, 15:25 GMT
Dragon breathes again

By Bryn Palmer
BBC Sport in Brisbane

The Welsh players left the Suncorp Stadium pitch to the familiar sound of Tom Jones' 'Delilah' ringing in their ears.

And as their supporters belted out the chorus by way of appreciation for a second stirring display in a week, 'Why, why, why?' was a distinctly apt refrain.

For, when the dust settled on a marvellous World Cup quarter-final, both sets of players were faced with some searching questions.

Wales will reflect that despite giving England the fright of their lives, they passed up a wonderful opportunity to do something truly sensational.

They scored three tries, but it might have been five or six with more clinical finishing.

Wales will return home as heroes
Wales impressed massively in their last two games
How did lock Robert Sidoli not score as early as the fourth minute when Wales had a clear three-to-one overlap?

Why did Mark Taylor not pass to Shane Williams when the Ospreys flyer had a free run to the line at 16-10 down in the second half?

Why was Iestyn Harris not doing the goalkicking at the outset, when Stephen Jones had struggled previously and proceeded to miss all three shots at goal?

Harsh perhaps to highlight such costly decisions after another captivating display, but they should at least cause the Dragons some disquiet in the cold light of day.

But that is nothing compared to the inquest that England's players face this week.

Coach Clive Woodward was already talking of a 'clear the air' meeting after the match to assess what went wrong, and it promises to be a long and frank discussion.

Make no mistake, England were rattled. They appeared a rudderless bunch at times in the first half, bereft of structure and composure.

That they restored some sort of order in the second half is testament to their experience, but this was far from the performance of would-be world champions.

The lack of width to their play was in stark contrast to the apparent ease with which Wales found open spaces.

You could have thrown a blanket over almost the entire England team when centre Mike Tindall received the ball on the half-hour.

Lock Ben Kay was the only white shirt way out on the right flank, with four Welshman for company, but incredibly Tindall elected to try a cross-kick.

Shane Williams caught the ball, swerved away from Kay, and moments later was juggling the ball to send Stephen Jones in for the opening try.

Wales outscored England three tries to one
Wales outscored England three tries to one, despite losing out
Five minutes later, when Williams left Dan Luger for dead, soaring Welsh confidence was rewarded with a second try to Colin Charvis.

The English mistakes came thick and fast as Jonny Wilkinson knocked on and Luger sliced a horrible kick into touch to the delight of the Welsh supporters.

When Sidoli hauled down Will Greenwood with a try-saving tackle in the closing moments of the half, those same supporters were delirious with disbelief.

"This is what dreams are made of," declared the man next to me. "And Martyn Williams hasn't come on yet!"

Sadly, for those of a Welsh persuasion, those dreams were rudely shattered within minutes of the resumption.

Williams did indeed come on just before the hour, but by then England had already transformed a 10-3 deficit into a 19-10 lead.

With Mike Catt on in place of the wretched Luger, and Tindall moved to the wing, the lack of direction that had paralysed their first-half display disappeared.

As England kept the ball and played the territory game, Welsh frustration produced a series of penalties and Wilkinson punished them five times in swift succession.

Even then, Martyn Williams justified his billing by grabbing the try that sparked hope of a late Wales victory - a la Wembley 1999.

But this time England closed out the match, even if their World Cup prospects are seriously open to question.

Links to more Rugby World Cup stories



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