England, at one time looking like handsome winners over Wales, finally let the opposition off the hook and had to settle for a draw. Wales, beaten hands down in the line-out from start to finish, can thank their lucky stars that England failed to capitalise on such a good amount of ball – Pullin even beat Gale in contriving more strikes against the head, but the backs could not turn all this advantage to tangible account. The arch villain, perhaps, was Finlan, who seemed much happier to kick than to set his line moving, although McFadyean, England’s Captain for the first time, was often standing near enough to Finlan to have passed him some word or another had he not been satisfied with what Finlan was upto, tactically.
Be that as it may, Englands reconstituted pack, after the hiding from New Zealand, did their job admirably, with Bell leading them with rare dash and inspiration. It is strangely ironical that Jarrett, whose phenomenal debut against England last season has already become a piece of rugby legend, should be instrumental in England’s downfall. This time, however it was a curious twist of fate, because it was his failure with two kicks which brought about two Welsh tries. McFadyean knocked-on behind his own line, and Hiller knocked-on in front of his own posts, this apart, had a fine game – he simply had to pay the highest price for one mistake.
It seemed from this game that eight men line-outs are becoming a thing of the past in International football. On one occasion, Wales, a yard or two from their own line, decided to leave only two men in the lineout, a ruse based, no doubt, on the assumption that their backs had only to retreat to their own line, whereas the England backs had to keep a distance of ten yards. The tactic was obviously to throw the ball over the heads of the line out men to be caught by a Welsh defender. Dangerously, however the ball was allowed to bounce, and could have put Wales in desperate straits; the plan could of easily recoiled.
England took a lead after only seven minutes. Lloyd kicked over the Welsh line and McFadyean, after a chase in which W.K Jones appeared to either slip or be impeded, got his hand to the ball for a touch-down. Wales were level McFadyean, the hero at the other end, fumbled a dropping ball after Jarrett had aimed a penalty wide; from the five-yard scrum Gale got his only strike against the head, and England seemed so surprised that they had left the blindside unguarded, and Edwards was through the gap in a flash.
England were soon back in front when Redwood, capped a splendid debut by darting over for a try which Hiller converted, so England led 8-3 at half-time and, at this stage, looked very good winners, but all is not done until the ball has stopped rolling – and this despite the fact that Hiller kicked penalty goal to make it 11-3. Jarrett took another penalty kick; this time Hiller muffed the dropping ball and from the scrum, Wanbon, another new cap, forced his way over for Jarrett to convert. A low trajectory dropped goal by John, out of the blue, put Wales right back into the hunt.
They had come from behind , or should it be said that England allowed them to come from behind, and now it was anybody’s game, yet England continued to get a much better ball than Wales from the line-outs, tight scrums and even the rucks. What the Welsh backs might have done had they been given such service makes Englishmen tremble at the thought. The English wings saw precious little of the ball when there was genuine room to move. An immensely exciting game, but too littered with elementary mistakes to give it a lasting place in history.
Bob Hiller, Derek Pout, Colin McFadyean (Capt), Bob Lloyd, Keith Savage, John Finlan, Bill Redwood, Brian Keen, John Pullin, Mike Coulman, Jim Parsons, Peter Larter, Bryan West, Peter Bell, David Gay.
Paul Wheeler, Stuart Watkins, Keith Jarrett, Gerald Davies, Keri Jones, Barry John, Gareth Edwards, Denzil Williams, Norman Gale (Capt), Boyo James, Max Wiltshire, Billy Mainwaring, Dai Morris, Tony Gray, Bobby Wanbon
Reference: Match Report: Playfair Rugby Football Annual 1968-69