Wales in dreamland as Hook cuts English apart

JAMES HOOK put in a man-of-the-match performance as Wales completed a 27-18 victory over England at the Millennium Stadium and then admitted: “I could only have dreamt it would go that well.”

Hook scored 22 points and played with maturity, poise and confidence as Wales edged an enthralling encounter to avoid both a Six Nations whitewash and the wooden spoon.

The 21-year-old said: “I could only have dreamt it would go that well. It was a huge effort from all the boys.

“The forwards set a superb platform and for an outside half to play behind that pack was awesome.

“We weren’t too concerned about the wooden spoon. Any Welshman gets up for playing against England.”

Hook only started at fly-half because Stephen Jones was ruled out after suffering a fractured wrist bone.

Head coach Gareth Jenkins said: “Hook deserves that bottle of champagne he got (for man of the match). He has proven to everyone how talented he is. He put in a huge contribution into getting that result.”

Hook’s performance will only serve to increase the clamour for him to be Wales’ starting fly-half at the World Cup later this year.

But, in a show of solidarity, Hook and Gareth Thomas dedicated the performance and the victory to Jones.

Hook said: “I’d like to dedicate the performance to Steve. I was selected at outside half because he is injured. He is a great leader and a great captain.”

Thomas, the stand-in skipper, added: “The main motivation was for Stephen Jones. This is a team game. The best thing we could do for this environment, for this team was to win today and dedicate it to Stephen.”

Thomas vowed the squad will reflect soberly on an otherwise disappointing campaign: “When we look back on the campaign there have been a lot of lows. Beating England is great but it is not everything. When we analyse it we can’t just look at the England game and think everything is great.

“It is great to finish on a high and we can built on it. But we need to put right all the faults of the tournament.”

Jenkins is confident Wales can continue their progression through the summer tour to Australia and into the World Cup. “This team has got great potential,” said Jenkins.

“Our forwards came of age today. This performance will have done them a lot of good. There is more to come from them.”

Wales raced to a 15-0 lead with tries from Hook and Chris Horsman before England hit back before the interval with tries from Harry Ellis and Jason Robinson.

Wales responded well, Hook landing two more penalties and a drop goal.

Mike Catt admits England are on “a massive learning curve” as they head towards their World Cup defence in France later this year.

Catt admitted: “We made a lot of mistakes during the first 15 minutes, and against a fired-up Wales side you cannot do that.

“Wales pretty much dominated every breakdown early in the game. They put us on the rack, and we did exceptionally well to come back like we did before half-time.

“In the second-half we made a lot of mistakes and played in the wrong parts of the pitch. This is international rugby, and it is a massive learning curve for a lot of the guys.

“If we cut our mistakes, I don’t see why we can’t compete with anyone.

“I’ve loved being involved again. If my form is good enough to be selected for the tour (to South Africa in May and June), then so be it.”

Wales scorers: Tries: Hook, Horsman. Cons: Hook. Pens: Hook 4. Drop Goals: Hook.

WALES: K. Morgan, M. Jones, Shanklin, G. Thomas, S. Williams, Hook, Peel, Jenkins, Rees, Horsman, Gough, A. Jones, Popham, M. Williams, R. Jones.

Replacements: Phillips for Peel (68), D. Jones for Jenkins (70), A. Jones for Horsman (62), J. Thomas for Popham (68).

England scorers: Tries: Ellis, Robinson. Cons: Flood. Pens: Flood. Drop Goals: Flood.

ENGLAND: Cueto, Strettle, Tait, Catt, Robinson, Flood, Ellis, Payne, Chuter, White, Corry, Palmer, Worsley, Rees, Easter.

Replacements: Geraghty for Catt (42), Perry for Ellis (70), Turner for Payne (75), Mears for Chuter (74), Deacon for Palmer (58), Lund for Worsley (9).

Ref: A Rolland (Ireland).

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