KYLE SINCKLER went from the good… to the bad… to the ugly… just as Warren Gatland predicted.
Goaded in the week as England’s “emotional time bomb” by the Wales boss, Sinckler self-destructed in Cardiff’s cauldron.
As the heat got too much for him the 25-year-old tyro was hooked by Eddie Jones and booed off the pitch like a pantomime villain by 70,000 delirious Dragons fans.
Now Jones has begged for mercy for his fiery front-rower who he refuses to be seen as a scapegoat two minutes of terror as he rushes to finally protect him.
Jones said: “I think trying to single him out and try to make a villain of him will do him a disservice.
“He’s a very good young player, a young prop, he’s got under 20 caps and playing in one of the most difficult positions on the field, and he’ll come through as a great Test player for England.
“I think every player you’ve got to look after, but I would ask you not to go after him.
“I think it’s part of English sport. It’s a bust or boom mentality. You’re either bust or boom. I can’t control that.
“It’s just how it is and we’ve got to be good enough to see the truth and the reality of it, and get on with our job of keeping improving.”
Give the boy a chance. He’s a good young player and he’s doing his best, and like everyone we all make mistakes, but he’ll be alright.
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Let’s rewind the clock before Sinckler’s 120 seconds of madness and look at the good.
Up until the 48th minute when Sinckler and Alun Wyn Jones grabbed each other by the shirt – after Manu Tuilagi throttled Liam Williams by the throat – the noisy neighbours were getting on so well.
Sinckler had earlier won his side a scrum penalty and was an absolute menace in the tackle area having smashed through 21 hits.
Jamie George and Tom Curry who played the full 80, only managed six more than him.
No one in Wales came close to any of them – such was the pressure the Red Rose were under.
Then came the bad – a snide and cynical late hit on Gareth Anscombe in the 54th minute handed Wales a penalty, which they happily booted down the pitch to gain easy territory.
Then the ugly – another penalty, this time for grabbing AWJ around the neck in a maul and Anscombe kicks for goal and sends Sinckler packing – as Jones hauls him off for Harry Williams.
England will dress it up as team discipline, but Sinckler’s errors had them sliding backwards, and fast.
At 9-10 that was the turning point and England were without a player who when at his best, gives them so much energy and power that feeds through this pack and back division.
His personal implosion was symbolic of England’s collective surrendering as Cory Hill finally battered down the try line after 35 phases and Josh Adams won it after Tom Curry’s opener and Owen Farrell’s points from the boot.
As Jones demands leniency for his live-wire prop, lets just a remember a few things.
Jones had his pants completely pulled down by Gatland on the pitch, and off it, as he was handed a masterclass in the dark arts by his biggest rival.
That shocked and stunned the Aussie boss, who isn’t used to not getting it all his own way and having the last laugh.
Just last year Jones tried to rattle the Dragons with the same tactic, and it worked, as he called out rookie no.10 Rhys Patchell and spoke about reporting skipper AWJ to World Rugby for intimidating refs.
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Taking a swipe at their playmaker, Jones said: “He’s a young guy, he’s inexperienced and is their third-choice 10.
“He’ll be under some heat. I would imagine that when Alun Wyn Jones and the guys go down for breakfast, they’ll be looking at him thinking: ‘Can this kid handle the pressure?’ I hope he has the bottle.”
Yet Jones sees Gatland’s taunts as disrespectful.
“I didn’t know Warren had a degree in clinical psychology, so let me know I might go and see him as well,” he said.
Gatland played Jones at his own game and beat him. But Jones still hopes to have the last laugh.
With Italy and Scotland both at home, they have a dream run-in with the Championship still up for grabs and Ireland, who go to Wales, still in it.
With the Grand Slam gone, Jones added: “To me, the Championship is about the Championship.
“Grand Slams are like – you go to buy a car and you get tinted windows. It’s an added extra.
“We can’t get the added extras now, but we can still get the Championship.”