CARDIFF // England's 26-19 victory over Wales in Cardiff will not earn the plaudits of their November dissection of Australia but for ever-pragmatic manager Martin Johnson, Friday's success was equally satisfying.
England turned on the style to beat the Wallabies in the autumn but having been exposed by South Africa two weeks later, Johnson will be delighted that they, generally, got the basics right again on Friday.
England travelled across the Severn Bridge on the back of a woeful away record, searching their first victory in the Welsh capital since Johnson captained them to a 2003 win en route to a grand slam in a year crowned by their World Cup glory in Australia a few months later.
The current England team are a long way from the battle-hardened unit that Clive Woodward forged but the way they dealt with an intimidating atmosphere, took their chances and kept Wales at bay as they threw everything at them in the final quarter showed Johnson that they are no callow unit either.
"The great thing is when you get the same guys back in camp as you had on the summer tour and in the autumn, you get that continuity and you can go from putting foundations in place to putting more detail onto your plans and ensuring we execute under pressure and there is plenty more to come," Johnson told reporters.
"We left some chances out there but that composure is getting there game on game.
"I'm really, really happy with the win as that's what we came here for.
"It was about finishing it off in the last 10-20 minutes when it got tense and we did that."
Friday's victory, secured by a try in each half by winger Chris Ashton, was much-needed for Johnson and with three successive home games to come against Italy, France and Scotland before a finale in Ireland, England have a real shot at their first title since 2003.
Johnson, as ever, was reluctant to look beyond the next match.
"We haven't won away in the Six Nations for a while so it's good but if we play badly next week against Italy what would that feel like," he said.
"We have to keep going and keep improving and the great thing is there is a lot we can improve on."
While Johnson was able to plan his next game on a high, Wales coach Warren Gatland is under pressure after a result that left him without a win in eight tests.
The New Zealander was frustrated his team did not take advantage of a first-half sin-binning of England lock Louis Deacon, scoring only one penalty. England scored their all-important second try while Wales were down to 14 after prop Craig Mitchell took a yellow card.
"It was 3-3 during that spell and in that period we were guilty of kicking the ball away on a couple of occasions when we should have played through phases, which was disappointing," Gatland said.
"With our yellow we held on for nine minutes and they scored a try in the last minute of it. They took their opportunity during the yellow card and we didn't.
"I don't think there was a huge amount between the sides. I thought at times we were fantastic and we played a good off-loading game and caused England problems.
"It's important for us next week to get a win in Scotland then we've got to believe we can win the next two games. I don't think England will go through this competition unbeaten, so if we can win the next two games, hopefully that puts us back into contention for the championship."