February 12, 2017 / 10:19 AM / 10 months ago

Pundits purr over Cardiff classic

LONDON (Reuters) - Rugby pundits queued up to rave over Saturday’s Six Nations Cardiff classic, where England battled back for a 21-16 win over Wales in a match played at a speed, intensity and with a level of entertainment rarely seen in the northern hemisphere.

“That was an absolutely pulsating test match and an example of Six Nations rugby at its very best,” former British and Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan said.

England’s 2003 World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward was similarly effusive as he also looked ahead to the Lions’ tour of New Zealand later this year.

“What a fabulous game of rugby -- the Six Nations Championship at its very best,” he said.

“I can guarantee you even Steve Hansen and his All Blacks will have clocked that belter at the Principality Stadium. I‘m beginning to think the 2017 British and Irish Lions could be a very special team indeed.”

Sunday Times correspondent Stephen Jones said: “This was one of the great Six Nations matches of the era, hair-raisingly fast, bruising and tense.”

Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio said the it was a “match to gorge on”.

“Intensity, physicality, flashes of brilliance and late drama -- it had everything you could want,” he said. “It was one of the best in the Six Nations and both teams deserve credit for that.”

Victorious coach Eddie Jones also praised the hosts, who dominated the middle 40 minutes and led by two points going into the last five before being undone by Elliot Daly’s try and Owen Farrell’s superb touchline conversion.

“You have to give them a lot of credit because that’s the best I’ve seen them play,” Jones said. “In the first half, they had almost a flawless attack and kept the possession for long periods of time and it was difficult to get the ball off them.”

For all the brilliance, however, the match was effectively decided by a basic error as, having just won a turnover on their own line, Wales fluffed their “exit strategy” as Jonathan Davies’ clearance kick failed to find touch.

With his exhausted team mates unable to re-set their defensive line one last time, England poured into the space and sharp passes by George Ford and Farrell sent Daly in motion, and he had enough pace to get round Alex Cuthbert, a late call-up for the injured George North, and score in the corner.

”It was an outstanding test match,“ said Wales coach Rob Howley. ”We played with pace and accuracy, as did England.

“International games are won in the last 10 minutes, when decision-making comes under pressure... England know how to win, and we lost, but it was a fantastic performance.”

Editing by John O'Brien

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