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An eighth consecutive defeat deepened the sense of despair in a country where wining or losing on the rugby field provides the most revealing barometer of the national mood.
Ireland had found enough holes in the otherwise tightest of defences to withstand a second-half onslaught and win with a bit to spare.
After that first round, they were seen as serious contenders for the Championship, Wales for the nether regions, if not the dreaded wooden spoon.
Nobody in their right mind can have imagined then that by the time they returned home for the finale to the tournament, Wales would complete their recovery by turning the same scoreboard upside down until it read exactly as it had done in the opening match. ‘Cymru 30, Lloegr 3.’
Not even Nostradamus could have dreamt that one up. But that only tells the half of it. A team that had conceded three Irish tries in not much more than half an hour would plug the holes to such ruthless effect that they would not concede another.
Had France made the most of a first-half overlap during the second round of matches it would have been different but that’s irrelevant.
The facts are incontrovertible and the fact of the matter is that Wales have now gone virtually four-and-a-half matches since last lining up for the conversion experience – of Brian O’Driscoll’s try in the opening fixture.
That means they have gone three minutes short of six hours, a collective triumph for a system devised by defence coach Shaun Edwards and supervised on the field by Jamie Roberts.
That three of the four matches were on the road – in Paris, Rome and Edinburgh – simply makes it all the more commendable.
Wales did more than beat England in the Championship decider, outplaying them on a scale which left no room for complaint at the Grand Slam going up in a puff of smoke followed by the title.
By achieving a victory in the grand manner, the holders provided a performance every bit as momentous as the occasion.
In that respect they brought the curtain down on the six-week jamboree in the finest showbiz tradition, leaving the fans clamouring for more and proving once again that the grand old tournament is out on its own when it comes to creating the most climactic of finishes.
On an evening when they needed to win by seven points at the bare minimum, Wales did it by 27, not that the margin flattered them.
They could conceivably have won by more and probably would have done had Mike Brown’s ankle-tapper not brought George North down in full gallop and stopped him careering in between the posts.
The performance has won widespread acclamation as the finest by any Welsh team.
The margin is unprecedented, eclipsing the 25-0 rout achieved more than a century earlier at the Arms Park under the captaincy of the celebrated Willie Llewellyn – a wing whose record of 16 tries in 20 internationals bears comparison with any wing from any era.
Wales scored seven in that 1905 rout since when the try has been revalued twice, from three points to four, then five. That would have made the score 39-0 under the current scoring system.
Precisely where last Saturday’s triumph ranks on the list of all-time Welsh wins will be a matter of endless debate but there can be no denying two things.
Firstly, Rob Howley’s team retained their title in the style of true champions. Secondly, England’s young team wilted in the heat of the Millennium Stadium, something which the majority of them had not experienced before.
Elsewhere, France finished bottom of the Six Nations pile for the first time, despite finishing with an overdue home win, against Scotland. The pre-tournament favourites still ended up ten points short of the margin required to lumber Ireland with last place instead.
More than 70,000 in Rome saw Italy send Andrea Lo Cicero into tearful retirement in suitable style, a second home win of the campaign lifting them out of the bottom two for only the second time.
Their most-capped player took his final bow on a day when his country finally achieved another landmark win, beating Ireland in the Championship for the first time.
Over the course of the last six weeks, Sergio Parisse reaffirmed his status as Europe’s supreme No.8, no mean achievement given the competition from the French tour de force, Louis Picamoles.
Parisse’s Irish opponents in Rome, battered from pillar to post in terms of injuries at every turn during the tournament, suffered more as well as three yellow cards.
O’Driscoll got one of them for stamping – not the way the greatest European player of his generation would have wanted to bow out if, indeed, this proves to have been his last international in the green jersey.
Now the emphasis shifts inevitably to the best of British and Irish and whether Wales will be rewarded for their wonderful recovery with the Lions’ share in Australia this summer.
That could extend not merely to the overall squad of 35-37 but the Test team itself.
All will be revealed on April 30 which gives head coach Warren Gatland ample time to run an eye over non-RBS 6 Nations players like the French-based English trio, Andrew Sheridan, Steffon Armitage and, as an outside bet, Jonny Wilkinson.
Most Lions in a starting Test XV:
England (2nd and 3rd Tests v New Zealand 1993):
Jeremy Guscott, Rory Underwood, Rob Andrew, Dewi Morris, Brian Moore, Jason Leonard, Martin Johnson, Martin Bayfield, Ben Clarke, Dean Richards, Peter Winterbottom.
Wales (1st Test v New Zealad 1971):
JPR Williams, Gerald Davies, John Dawes, John C Bevan, Barry John, Gareth Edwards, Delme Thomas, Mervyn Davies, John Taylor. A tenth Welshman, Ray ‘Chicko’ Hopkins, replaced an injured Edwards.
England (3rd Test v Australia 2001):
Matt Perry, Jason Robinson, Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Dawson, Phil Vickery, Martin Johnson, Danny Grewcock, Neil Back, Martin Corry.
Wales (4th Test v New Zealand 1977):
JJ Williams, Steve Fenwick, David Burcher, Gareth Evans, Phil Bennett, Brynmor Williams, Graham Price, Terry Cobner, Derek Quinnell.
My team of the RBS 6 Nations:
15 Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
14 Alex Cuthbert (Wales)
13 Wesley Fofana (France)
12 Jamie Roberts (Wales)
11 George North (Wales)
10 Dan Biggar (Wales)
9 Mike Phillips (Wales)
1 Cian Healy (Ireland)
2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (Italy)
3 Adam Jones (Wales)
4 Joe Launchbury (England)
5 Ian Evans (Wales)
6 Ryan Jones (Wales)
7 Justin Tipuric (Wales)
8 Sergio Parisse (Italy)
My players of the RBS 6 Nations:
1 Sergio Parisse (Italy)
2 Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
3 Ryan Jones (Wales)