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Three Lions Mauled By Eleven Dragons
The newly revived England v Wales international match saw the lions severely mauled by the dragons, tho the final 7-1 score line did not reflect the difference between the two sides for an hour.
The Wales X1 were a considerably younger squad and their fitness told as the game wore on, though that should not deflect from the fact that they fielded a side packed with quality. They took the game to England from the first minute and had the better of early exchanges. Their intent was signalled within two minutes with a tackle on Damola Johnson that was sufficiently full-blooded to nearly end his England debut early.
The mercurial Mark Crook was a thorn in Englandís side in the opening half hour, constantly creating from wide on the right, but Wales were met with resilient defending, with Englandís Mark Smith contributing a few bone-jarring, last minute tackles. Keeper Jerry Osgood kept the lions in the game with a string of interceptions and a fine reflex save from a shot that looked certain goal-bound.
The visitors looked nervous and squandered what possession they had far too easily, though the work rate could not be faulted. Damola Johnsonís pace was a threat and he moved up front to partner Rob Sharp after 15 minutes. As the half hour mark passed, England began to look a little less disjointed, but Wales broke the deadlock with a controversial goal that appeared to be obviously offside to everyone but the referee. Though the circumstances of the goal were a bitter pill for England, there could be no doubting Wales were worth their lead, and they can consider themselves unfortunate when a quick second goal was ruled harshly offside just before half time.
England regrouped at half time and came out far more positively in the second half. The introduction of Toby Dykes and Tom Isaac had a positive effect going forwards and attacking pressure was rewarded with a Rob Sharp equaliser from close range. England had their best spell of the game and looked every bit as dangerous as their counterparts, but flagging legs began to tell in an ageing squad.
Wales squandered a succession of chances, largely thanks to a bobbly surface, before breaking free and making it 2-1. Their third goal shortly after was crucial in breaking Englandís will and the floodgates duly opened. Though the visitors kept battling, they were no match for the quality, fitness and finishing power of the dragons, and the hosts punished them ruthlessly with a further four goals in the last period.
In once sense, England didnít deserve a 7-1 score line, with the game even early in the second half. In another sense, the score line was a fair reflection of the difference in the age and fitness of the two sides. Wales thoroughly deserved their comprehensive victory on home soil. The match was played in a highly competitive, but excellently spirited manner, and thanks go to Matt Rowley for instigating the revival of this annual tie.
England squad: J.Osgood, M. baker, M.Smith, S. Price, G. Jenkins, B. Melville, T. Dykes, R. Gamblin, G. Lewis, R. Sharp, D. Johnson, R. Isaac, T. Isaac, A. Wright, A . Wood