Wales, champions in the Amateur Four Nations in each of the last three years, came to the Brewery Field defending a proud record. And just as in each if the previous final-day encounters, at Cheltenham, Aberavon and Coventry, this year's match up between Wales and England proved to be a thriller.
By virtue of their earlier victories against Scotland and Ireland, coupled with two surprise defeats for England, Wales had the luxury of knowing that only a 100 point defeat could deprive them of a fourth consecutive championship. This security however seemed to dampen the Welsh fire in the early stages, as England raced to a 22-0 lead in the first 24 minutes. England were running riot with three tries in ten minutes from Dave West, Paul Lord and Darryl Lacey, and when Lord and Lacey combined with Tom Sibley to send Ryan Knights in for the fourth English try it looked as though England were on target for a first win over their close rivals.
Wales were roused into action and got onto the scoreboard with a Jim Barnes try on 29 minutes. England responded with a short-range effort from Karl Leach, but Wales narrowed the gap to 18 with a Damien Smith score in the corner to go in 8-26 down at the break.
England restored their advantage on 46 minutes when substitute John Dudley crashed over but the sin-binning six minutes later of winger Ryan Knights gave the Welshmen real heart. Within a minute, Wales had scored their third try through Neil Davies and five minutes later Karl Thomas finished off a great passing movement to bring the score back to 20-30. Loose forward Marcus Sainsbury ensured a grandstand finish when he latched on to Gareth Jones' pass to score under the posts, and Wales thought their dominance was complete when Lloyd O'Connor went over from short distance to give the men in redthe lead for the first time.
But trailing 32-30 in the dying moments England kept on pressing. They were rewarded for their persistence by an injury time try under the posts, through another power run by Karl Leach.
So the day belonged to England, with their first ever home nations victory over Wales, but for the fourth consecutive year, the championship and the Cheltneham Regency Trophy remain firmly in the hands of Wales.
WALES 32 ENGLAND 36. Parkhouse Recruitment, Amateur Four Nations Championship.
1 Neil Dixon (Bridgend Blue Bulls), 2 Grant Epton (Bridgend), 3 Jim Barnes (Royal Navy), 4 Neil Davies (Aberavon Fighting Irish), 5 Damien Smith (Torfaen Tigers), 6 Gareth David (Bridgend), 7 Gareth Jones (Cardiff Demons), 8 Nathan Strong (captain) (Bridgend), 9 Jason Hill (Torfaen), 10 Steve Mayley (Torfaen), 11 John Purnell (Bridgend), 12 Karl Hocking (Bridgend), 13 Marcus Sainsbury (Bridgend). Subs: 14 Lloyd O'Connor (Bridgend), 15 Carle Ellis, 16 Carl Thomas (Valley Cougars), 17 Adrian Owen (Valley Cougars).
1 Richard Whitehouse (Telford Raiders), 2 Dave West (Ipswich Rhinos), 3 Karl Wesley (Leicester Phoenix), 4 Tom Sibley (Blackpool Sea Eagles), 5 Ryan Knights (Blackpool), 6 Darryl Lacey(Liverpool Buccaneers), 7 Paul Lord (Blackpool), 8 Anthony Wraith (Bolton le Moors), 9 Chris Spiers (Blackpool), 10 Harry Heaseman (St Ives Roosters), 11 Karl Leach (Widnes Saints), 12 John Stabler (Greenwich Admirals), 13 Dan Reeds (Lincoln), Subs 14 John Dudley (Nottingham Outlaws), 15 Chris Trentham (Nottingham), 16 Keiron Lacey (Liverpool), 17 Richard Lofthouse (Blackpool).
ENGLAND: 36 Tries: Dave West (6), Paul Lord (10), Darryl Lacey (16), Ryan Knights (24) Karl Leach (33 and 80), John Dudley (46) Goals: Paul Lord (3/7), Richard Whitehouse (1/1)
WALES: 32 Tries: Jim Barnes (28), Damien Smith (38), Neil Davis (55), Carl Thomas (59), Marcus Sainsbury (66), Lloyd O'Connor (72), Goals: Gareth David (4/6)
Game Breaker: Karl Leach's last minute try for England was the difference between two well-matched sides. Parkhouse Recruitment Men of the Match: England:Karl Leach, Wales: Karl HockingLike