-- TWICKENHAM -- This was a match for brawn over brain, until the final 120 seconds of the match. With two minutes left on the clock, three points down, England had a penalty deep in Welsh territory. It was on an angle, but it is the sort of kick that Owen Farrell or George Ford would slot with ease. England, perhaps caught by the magnitude of the situation, went to the corner. It came to nought. Wales, battered by injuries, kept their heads and took the points. On such decisions do Rugby World Cup campaigns and potentially jobs hinge.
A mere 18 minutes prior and Billy Vunipola limped off and Scott Williams departed the field on a stretcher. Three minutes later and three Wales players were on the turf. Out came the stretcher again. Liam Williams was edged on to it. Meanwhile, Hallam Amos on the right wing was clutching his shoulder; the physios were outnumbered by the injured players. Mike Brown was Amos' gatekeeper until a medic could get to him. But eventually it was Wales' day.
This was physicality on an unrivalled scale.
It was a gladiatorial atmosphere inside Twickenham. Every English hit was met with guttural gusto, the crowd became part of the match's DNA -- necks craned for every box kick, backs hunched for the scrums. From the first version of 'Swing, Low' after a miserly nine seconds to outpouring of emotion at such mundane occurrence as a misplaced pass or kick, this was an atmosphere seldom experienced on English soil.
For a game that was two years in the making, just about every sinew of the Anglo-Welsh rivalry was called upon this week. There was talk of players being smashed, the Severn Bridge being the only barrier preventing the hatred between the two nations spilling over, cheating and a mixture of rallying calls to arms and sweet platitudes levelled in the referees' favour.
There is nothing quite like the green, green grass of home and Wales have done all they can this week to make Twickenham a familiar place down to even bringing Tom Jones in for a pep talk. But for so long it looked like England would edge it.
England had a game plan, they focused everything around the battle to win the gainline; they unleashed their take of 'Warrenball' on Wales, perhaps coined 'Burgessball'.
Sam Burgess was a key cog in the England defence and he kept his positioning while Owen Farrell went searching for blood and the ball. He played well at fly-half and he repaid every ounce of faith that Lancaster showed in him this week.
Some of the kicking from hand was occasionally astray but he kept his head when occasions it looked like those around him might lose theirs. It is a maturity he has developed over the last three years. On his Twickenham Test debut in 2012, Wales targeted Farrell, expecting him to be a weak touch but were instead met by a young No.10 who matched the vitriolic contents of his mouth with a physicality. A year on and he took it upon himself to be an one-man team when England floundered in Cardiff; they lost their shape. For all his bread and butter, it was his tackle on Liam Williams in the 63rd minute that was most impressive, he made up 10 metres to knock the ball from the marauding fullback's hands.
Burgess was assured in defence and though his offensive game leaves a little to be desired, he combined well with Brad Barritt. Mike Brown had another huge game from fullback while the England front-row refound some of its fearsome gnarl after a quartet of games where they were largely tamed by the opposition.
But this is Gatland's area of expertise, no one knows a power game like him. And he had Dan Biggar marshalling it. He was fantastic at fly-half and kicked the key penalty -- after his slightly bizarre run-up. He ended up being the man who had the firmer hand on the pace of the game while his team-mates were collapsing around him.
Wales finished with a line-up at the end of the match that not even Gatland could ever have dreamed up in his nightmares. It was a game fought at the breakdown and in the contact area but even in a land of big hitters and box office acts, there was a need for the tight-rope walker with Lloyd Williams playing that role as he kicked in behind the English defence for Gareth Davies' score. The relentless running and power game eventually paid off.
England simply ran out of ideas and options in the closing stages. Next weekend's match against Australia is now the biggest match of Lancaster's tenure. They need to rebuild the fortress. For Wales, they will count their walking wounded and regroup but the momentum has shifted firmly in their favour.