Wales and England have had some fantastic clashes down the years, but many have come since the beginning of the Six Nations.
Whether it’s peroxide blond Will Greenwood putting Wales to the sword, Gavin Henson’s howitzer at the start of an unlikely grand slam, James Hook scoring in every way possible, the comeback to end all comebacks, England’s Cardiff capitulation or their World Cup revenge three years later, it’s fair to say we’ve been on the edge of our seats.
The record since 2000 is Wales: six, England: eleven, but here we’ve picked out four Welsh wins in the six selections, as they were some of the most extraordinary matches.
However, we start with England’s record win in Cardiff.
2001: Wales 15-44 England
One of the finest games of the Clive Woodward era – an exceptional English performance saw them silence the Cardiff crowd with a six-try thumping, as Will Greenwood running in six tries sporting a peroxide blond haircut.
Graham Henry, the then Wales coach, said it was “the best performance [he’d] ever seen by a European side”. England would miss out on the grand slam that year, but that extremely professional performance had put England amongst the world’s elites.
2005: Wales 11-9 England
Wales hadn’t beaten England since their Wembley win in 1999 and had not beaten them in Cardiff for twelve years ahead of this game. No-one expected them to beat England that day either, with Wales not having challenged for the title in years.
It was not a brilliant game, but Henson stole the show, putting in a superb performance before kicking a 50-metre penalty with four minutes remaining to steal the victory and set Wales on their way to an unlikely grand slam.
2007: Wales 27-18 England
England headed to Cardiff knowing they could still win the title while Wales had lost all four games. The Red Rose would need a massive 57-point win to take the championship, but given how dire Wales had played in their previous outings, some saw it as a possibility.
15-0 down after 15 minutes, England’s hopes were shot to pieces by an outstanding Hook, who scored a try, penalty, drop-goal and conversion to secure the win. The then 22-year-old scoring 22 points. Henson and Hook, two of Wales’ greatest wastes of talent almost single-handedly beating the old enemy in consecutive home contests.
2008: England 19-26 Wales
England led 19-6 with 20 minutes left on the clock, and it had been 20 years since Wales had won at Twickenham. Game over? Nope. Two incredibly soft penalties saw Wales get within a score and as the Welsh kicked long, Jonny Wilkinson floated an awful pass away from Danny Cipriani, giving the Wales chasers the chance to sweep up the ball and run in the equaliser.
Could it get worse? It could. Ian Balshaw dithered as Wales cleared straight to England again. He was charged down by Mike Phillips, who eventually ran in the winner.
It was 17 points gifted to Wales, all off pretty average clearance kicks. England’s worst nightmare? That’s still to come I’m afraid.
2013: Wales 30-3 England
Apologies to any England fans reading this, it will get better soon! The men in white headed to Cardiff off the back of four pretty unconvincing wins, but were suddenly on the verge of a grand slam. Wales had hit back from a home defeat against Ireland to record three wins on the bounce against the blue teams away (again unconvincing).
The first half was closely fought and intense, but Wales went in with the upper-hand. The second half was not close. A somewhat dubious turnover allowed Alex Cuthbert to get in the corner for his first, and soon after, as England’s grip on the title faded, he stormed over for a second. Wales needed an eight-point win for the title, they won by 27 points, their biggest win over England.
2016: England 25-21 Wales
The World Cup left behind scars for England, and many had Wales down as favourites to beat a transitioning England side. The Red Rose burst into a 16-0 lead as they completely controlled the first half and, despite Dan Biggar’s charge down, found themselves 25-7 up with seven minutes left.
Dan Cole saw yellow, Tomas Francis somehow avoided in-game punishment for an attempted eye-gouge and Wales were a man up. They exploited the advantage: first George North going over after a lovely break through midfield, before they worked their way up the pitch to score again through Taulupe Faletau.
Again Wales came, up to the 22. Had it not been for Manu Tuilagi’s try-saving tackle, I may have been writing about the game that won Wales the 2016 title. George North wasn’t actually in touch, but Wales could have little complaints about the overall result.
Will this year’s clash prove to be another epic encounter?
Nick Powell, Pundit Arena