England’s Grand Slam hopes were obliterated by a passionate Wales onslaught on and off the pitch

FIRST the bones, then the eardrums, then the pride.

The battering and bruising was thorough and relentless as England’s Grand Slam hopes were obliterated by a passionate Welsh onslaught — on and off the pitch.

Josh Adams juggles the ball before collecting and touching down to raise the roof at the Principality Stadium
Josh Adams juggles the ball before collecting and touching down to raise the roof at the Principality Stadium
Adams' incredible try sent Cardiff into delirium
Adams’ incredible try sent Cardiff into delirium

“The world hasn’t ended, mate,” said Eddie Jones afterwards. But for a moment, it sounded like it had.

That was when Josh Adams produced a massive leap to rob Elliot Daly, collect Dan Biggar’s kick and go over for the late try which confirmed the Dragons’ victory.

The roar was so booming you expected to see a nuclear mushroom cloud in the sky.

Gallons of ale were sprayed around the Principality Stadium in a display of joyous wastefulness.

The brawn, then the local Brain’s beer. This was going to be the mother of all celebrations in the land of their fathers.

A record 12th straight victory for the national team and, even more importantly, a bloody nose for the damned English.

England strutted to emphatic victories over Ireland and France to mark themselves out as Six Nations favourites.

But as soon as they were faced with a genuine challenge, Jones’ men lost their heads and wilted as they chucked away a 10-3 half-time lead.

Cory Hill's try swung the momentum in Wales' favour
Cory Hill’s try swung the momentum in Wales’ favour
Tom Curry dances through to score the first try of the game for England
Tom Curry dances through to score the first try of the game for England
Reuters

Wales coach Warren Gatland called it right when he singled out England’s Kyle Sinckler as an ‘emotional time bomb’ and a couple of moments of indiscipline from the Harlequins prop turned the tide.

If Gatland does end up being interviewed as Jones’ successor as England boss after the World Cup, the New Zealander can add clairvoyance to his long list of attributes.

As is customary on these occasions, Gatland cited English arrogance — real or imaginary — as a motivation.

In truth, an England team which finished fifth in the Six Nations last year was never quite as good as has been suggested by those wins in Dublin and over the French at Twickenham.

They also missed the might of the injured Mako Vunipola and Maro Itoje, not that there will be any Welsh sympathy for a nation with such vast resources.

England were in command when Curry scored the opening try... but the second half was a different story
England were in command when Curry scored the opening try… but the second half was a different story
AP:Associated Press

Wales still need wins over Scotland and Ireland to beat England to the title and secure a Grand Slam. But with the key clash against the Irish here in Cardiff on March 16, you would not bet against them.

Because, while Gatland’s players were exceptional, it is difficult to overestimate the impact of this Welsh crowd.

Asked whether the atmosphere had made a difference, Jones replied: “It always does mate — that’s why you have home and away.

“You have to be good enough to cope with it and we weren’t.”

The roars which greeted every tiny Welsh success, any minor English error, every favourable refereeing decision, visibly propelled the men in scarlet towards this victory. Wales have now beaten England in 1949, 1959, 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999, 2009 and 2019. And the decibel levels have probably risen every time.

There are still seven months to go until the World Cup in Japan but the bedlam of Cardiff will still be ringing in English ears come September.

The build-up to these clashes rarely differs . . . anecdotes about fans head-butting the England team coach, the ceremonial goat, the vast male voice choir belting out Delilah, that anthem to domestic violence.

But once the hymns and arias were done, this was always going to be an intensely serious clash between two quality teams.

And after an extraordinary record of scoring a try within three minutes in each of their previous five Tests, England could not muster their usual dream start.

Wales targeted Kyle Sinckler's hotheadedness on discipline as Eddie Jones hauled him off
Wales targeted Kyle Sinckler’s hotheadedness on discipline as Eddie Jones hauled him off

Daly was miles wide with a long-range penalty in only the third minute and, though Owen Farrell landed a kick from closer in, Wales fly-half Gareth Anscombe soon levelled, with Sinckler the guilty man.

When England made the breakthrough, it came courtesy of nimble thinking from two of their big men.

Courtney Lawes won possession in Artful Dodger fashion and Tom Curry pounced on a momentary lapse in concentration to breach the Welsh line and score his first Test try.

The flanker had caused a proper scene against France when a gashed forehead left his face coated in claret.

His mother had been in tears, fearing for her boy’s good looks. This time Mrs Curry would have been overcome by pride and joy. At least momentarily.

England gave the home side a fierce examination in the first half, but Wales finished strongly
England gave the home side a fierce examination in the first half, but Wales finished strongly
AFP or Licensors
Henry Slade runs with the ball in the open field in Cardiff
Henry Slade runs with the ball in the open field in Cardiff

England scented blood — Henry Slade stretched himself to charge down a kick, then Jonny May went into overdrive chasing his own grubber at tremendous pace before bundling Hadleigh Parkes into touch and celebrating with a double fist pump.

But crucially the Red Rose could not add to their seven-point lead before half-time.

Sinckler’s fuse reached its end during a spot of handbags as he pushed and wagged his finger at Alun Wyn Jones.

As indiscipline infected the English ranks, Anscombe kicked two penalties with May and Sinckler the culprits.

Jones withdrew Sinckler midway through the second half — just as Mystic Warren had been proved spectacularly correct.

When Farrell landed England’s solitary second-half points with a 63rd-minute penalty, the noise was so intense the ‘Respect the Kicker’ request on the big screen read like a sarcastic joke.

It all hinged on an extraordinary spell of Welsh pressure lasting 35 phases and ending with Biggar — on for Anscombe — flinging a pass to Cory Hill, who powered through Billy Vunipola and inched over.

After Adams had clinched it, Welsh skipper Jones screamed down a TV camera lens as an entire nation drowned in ecstasy.

They were not shy about it, the Welsh, but then again they had no reason to be.

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