Grand Slam defining moment: Henson kick downs England in Cardiff

Henson 2005 GS Defining Moment (1)
Few kicks in the history of the Six Nations have catapulted an individual to overnight fame quite like the one struck by Gavin Henson against England in 2005.

Few kicks in the history of the Six Nations have catapulted an individual to overnight fame quite like the one struck by Gavin Henson against England in 2005.

It was as impressive as it was important, especially when set against the context. For when the two sides met in the opening round of the 2005 Championship, Wales had not beaten England in Cardiff since 1993.

During that barren spell, Wales had to watch their oldest foes win five Championships, two Grand Slams and a World Cup. England’s most recent visit to the Welsh capital had been in the build-up to their 2003 World Cup triumph and Clive Woodward’s men strolled to a 43-9 victory.

Henson and his teammates felt it was time for the pendulum to start swinging their way and the hard-hitting centre, then just 23, certainly did not lack confidence going into the contest.

“It is going to be the biggest game of my career, but I feel I am a bit of a big-game player and I like playing in these big matches,” he said.

“I feel pretty relaxed going into it, and I am confident we are going to do well. I think it’s our best chance to beat England for a long time.

“A couple of years ago, when they won the World Cup, and before that, they were unbeatable. But I think they’ve sort of lost that stigma now, with the amount of players retiring and injured.

“So we have got a really good chance of beating them, hopefully. They don’t carry that same aura of invincibility that they used to.”

Big words – Henson needed a big performance to back them up.


Wales started the match on top and went ahead in the 11th minute, Shane Williams bursting through to score in the corner.

The home crowd were rocking and the volume only increased when Henson gave 18-year-old debutant Mathew Tait a welcome to international rugby with a huge tackle that drove the England man backwards.

Stephen Jones and Charlie Hodgson exchanged penalties later in the first half, which ended with another moment of quality from Henson. The Ospreys centre collected a Jason Robinson punt and returned it with interest, landing it inches inside the touchline to pin England right back in their own corner.

Confidence was oozing through Henson, who put in another massive hit on Tait early in the second half in what had become a full-blooded encounter.


For all Wales’ efforts, it looked as if their long wait for a win in this fixture was set to continue when two Hodgson penalties edged England into a 9-8 lead.

With just four minutes to play, however, they were offered an opportunity. A penalty was awarded to the hosts but it was far from routine. Out on the right-hand side, 43 metres out, it needed a mighty boot.

In Henson, Wales had just the player but the pressure was on. A similar opportunity had presented itself in an Autumn International against New Zealand the previous year – on that occasion, Henson struck the upright and the All Blacks went on to escape with a 26-25 victory.

This time, he made no mistake. Henson showed no signs of carrying any past demons as he stepped up and nervelessly slotted the kick between the posts to send the home faithful into raptures.


England could not muster a response in the dying minutes and Wales held on for a famous 11-9 win, with Henson named Man of the Match.

“I knew I was going to kick it – I’ve been kicking them all week,” said a typically bullish Henson after the game.

“I don’t tend to feel pressure to be honest but I’ve been building myself up in the newspapers all week so I had to deliver.

“As a team we did really well and the fans deserve it. It’s been a long time coming and it’s just a great win.

“Hopefully we’ll go on a run and maybe win something in this Championship,” he added – an ambition that soon became a reality.

Wales faced three consecutive away matches after their win over England but there was no case of after the Lord Mayor’s Show as they saw off Italy (38-8), France (24-18) and Scotland (44-26).

Mike Ruddock’s men therefore went into the final match against Ireland in Cardiff on the cusp of a first Grand Slam since 1978 and, fittingly, Henson was again influential.

The centre settled any early nerves with a drop goal and later added a penalty which, in addition to tries from Gethin Jenkins and Kevin Morgan and the reliable boot of Stephen Jones, saw Wales claim a 32-20 victory that secured the Grand Slam.

Wales did not have to wait so long for the next one, which arrived in 2008 and was replicated in 2012 and 2019.

But while all such achievements are special, the 2005 triumph remains particularly fondly recalled – and it wouldn’t have been possible without the Henson kick which set Wales on their way.