THE FERRIE FILES
The young scriptwriter would surely have been thrown out of Ridley Scott’s office with a flea in his ear.
“Determined to prove they have absorbed all they need to know from their stricken hero they turn up at the gates of the enemy laying down a challenge,” he had written.
“They are allowed to enter and for an hour they suffer hideous losses, their ranks reduced until it seems they cannot possibly cope, among the stricken two representatives from the same tribe who had taken the places of previously fallen heroes. One of their number has, however, taken the place of their hero and landed mortal blow after mortal blow, while a giant figure takes every break in the action to rally those who remain as the stretcher bearers are allowed time to tend to, then remove those no longer able to participate, from the arena.
“Somehow they rouse themselves to one, final magnificent effort and, fresh cavalry surging down an unguarded flank, they strike a surprise attack, deep at the heart of the enemy. Still there is time, though and the superior force drives relentlessly forward once more, until its general makes a dreadful error when, rather than save the day and move on to another when his superior numbers will surely tell, he goes for the quick kill and instead allows the giant to leap into action once more and ensure the victory.”
The great movie director’s head would surely have rolled back in despair.
“Too cheesy… way too cheesy,” he would have concluded, while perhaps also wondering how his backers’ demands that he produce several more sequels could be satisfied if this sort of climax was to occur so early on.
That is the challenge facing World Cup organisers after a match that should not have lived up to the billing some had given it, of being the greatest ever England v Wales encounter, arguably did so on Saturday.
This was another extraordinary odds-defying triumph for Warren Gatland, the coaching genius who has now steered more Wales teams to victories over England at Twickenham in eight years than the combined might mustered by Scotland has managed in almost 90 years.
With Leigh Halfpenny, the marksman whose accuracy had won them many previous battle and fellow Lion Jonathan Davies among the huge list of Welsh casualties ahead of it, their replacements in the starting line-up, Liam and Scott Williams, were both carried from the field during a brutal second half.
Dan Biggar kept on landing his goals, though, while Alun Wyn Jones, their towering lock, along with Sam Warburton, their captain, urged the rest to stay in the fight until reinforcements, most tellingly in the form of the very least experienced of the Williams’, could get up to pace and play their part.
The cool-headed way in which replacement Lloyd Williams first stretched the English defence, then spotted the weakness in their cover to slide his cross-field grubber into the path of Gareth Davies for what proved the match-winning try was as remarkable as Chris Robshaw’s decision thereafter to spurn the chance to tie the match, an outcome that would surely have favoured England with their superior overall man-power, not least given the damage inflicted in the course of this battle.
The fear for organisers has to be that this tournament has peaked too soon since it is impossible to see how the quality of the drama that unfolded on Saturday can be matched, let alone surpassed.
Yet sport has a way of addressing these things and, even in the short term, at the end of an Ashes summer this weekend’s England v Australia match could hardly be a more mouthwatering prospect.
The scene is set for rugby’s greatest ever tournament if this pace can be maintained, but after Saturday’s spectacle it is hard to imagine how.
AND ANOTHER THING . . .
In the dark north a prosperous but unacclaimed Emperor rubs his hands in glee as full details of the conflict emerge.
The way the southern tribes have ripped one another to shreds means his army, previously discounted as one failure has followed another, could yet achieve the goal of global domination he claimed was his strategy and which the wise elders condemned as the dreaming of a lunatic.
He has sought to match the sorceror who has out-witted all others in these parts with another from the same distant lands.
His man may not be the master tactician his compatriot has proven to be, but he perhaps knows enough to be able to capitalise when faced with weakened foes…
JUBILATION: Wales coach Warren Gatland savours victory over England