A FORTNIGHT ago, the idols of the music world made the Millennium Stadium rock. On Saturday, the boy who looks like Elvis shook, rattled and rolled over England and sent them packing back to their Heartbreak Hotel. For blue suede shoes, read silver leather. For Brylcreemed quiffs, read gelled spikes. And the King probably never shaved his legs. But with a kick that would clinch victory for Wales five metres in from the right touchline and 44 metres out, Gavin Henson was about to enter rock god territory.
As soon as the penalty was given, the chant spread through the crowd, "Henson! Henson! Henson!" Stephen Jones had first refusal but told captain Gareth Thomas it was not within his range.
"I looked at Gav and he gave me a reassuring nod," Alfie revealed later.
We'd waited 12 years for that silver-booted kick to end the Old Enemy's dominance in Cardiff. Five minutes to go and a last chance of glory. Yet how many times had we been in this position before, only for Lady Luck to give the Harvey Smith salute?
But among the 74,197 knotted stomachs, bitten nails and eyes peeping through fingers, one 23-year-old felt no pressure. His pre-kick ritual was simple. No elaborate hand clasping, or muttered prayers. Its only quirk was the usual flick of the foot before toe made contact with ball. Time seemed to stretch as the ball arced towards the post. The roar began before it dropped sweetly over the crossbar. It was never in doubt.
"I knew I was going to get it before I even took the kick," Henson said, almost indignant that anyone should think otherwise.
"I have been getting them from that distance all year so it wasn't a problem. I had to deliver and I think I did."
An intense midfield battled had been predicted. England had built up their own centre of attention, teenage debutant Mathew Tait. Endorsed by the absent talisman Jonny Wilkinson - "I never knew what the phrase 'someone really special' meant until I saw him in action" - great things were expected of the Newcastle youngster. But Henson had arranged a one-man welcoming-committee to the brutal world of international rugby, spectacularly upending him twice. The second time, he cradled Tait in his arms for a moment as if to underline he was the infant on the pitch. Unfortunately for Tait, in this instance King Herod was baby-sitting.
In a game devoid of beauty, Henson brought elegance in attack and grit in defence. He seems to create a bubble of space and time around him, stealing extra seconds for a whopping kick to touch or a deft show and go. His facial expressions range from nonchalant to impassive - he'll only allow himself a smile if he does something really special. While the rest of the team were pictured in training last week, grinning and cracking jokes, Henson publicity shots resembled the portfolio of an Armani model.
Which brings us to the image. The way he looks draws the eye almost as much as the way he plays. Fortunately, one does not detract from the other. As Jeremy Guscott pointed out over the weekend, "for a pretty boy he certainly puts in the tackles". The grooming of Welsh rugby players has improved greatly since Bob Norster was the first forward to bring hair gel into the dressing room, but Henson has taken it to a whole new level. He is an unashamed metrosexual, maintaining a burnished glow in the depths of a Neath winter and skewering his locks into ever more complex spike formations. Retail therapy looms large in his extra-curricular life.
"I do like my shopping mind, I like to look smart," he once admitted, before revealing trips to the Body Shop for facial products and detailing his latest purchase "a Dolce & Gabbana jumper, £150, black with a bit of red, it's quite nice".
The fashion sense extends to the pitch. Like the trendy sixth former who customises his school uniform, Henson accessorises his Welsh kit with his trademark precious metal footwear. As for the hair removal that made the headlines last week, yes, shaving your legs does make you more slippery in the tackle, but it also emphasises the tan and muscle definition.
But the great irony of Henson's attention-grabbing appearance is he is actually quite shy. He may possess a confidence in his ability that borders on arrogance - which is no bad thing - yet away from the game he's had to work on his social skills. Ospreys coach Lyn Jones has proved the mentor Henson so desperately needed, after the promise he showed as 2001 International Young Player of the Year was in danger of evaporating. Ever the maverick, Jones came up with a way for Henson to conquer his timidity. Each morning as he arrived at the club, Jones made him go into the office to talk to people and bring him out of himself.
Family remain Henson's touchstone.
"They're the only people I can really talk to. They've always believed in me. When I had poor school reports they wouldn't mind, they saw my caps as GCSEs or A-levels - they always believed I was going to make it in rugby because that's all I've ever wanted to do."
When I interviewed Henson about his ambitions as a 19-year-old, he saw rugby as a way of helping his parents enjoy an easier life. His mother Audrey helps his father run a felt-roofing business.
"My father is working too hard, he needs to stop, I need to make some money to make him retire. I've worked for him for a year during my GCSE year and it was harder than anything I've ever done before. He's doing that every day. It would be nice to sort him out so he wouldn't have to do that for much longer."
The Henson family is steeped in rugby - his father and grandfather played for Maesteg and the young Henson was a ball boy for the club as a nine-year-old. On Saturday, the nation shared the pride they must feel in him. The wider rugby world also sat up and took notice. In his first Six Nations match, Henson must have surely played himself into the British Lions. Of course, the Welsh victory was a massive team effort. As Gareth Thomas pointed out, "Gavin was superb but I hope the emphasis in the press will be that the whole team should take the credit, and I'm sure Gav would be the first person to agree with me on that. It's crucial we stick together."
Yet sport occasionally throws up a figure whose combination of talent and image ensure his appeal transcends the field of play. It's common in football, rarer in rugby. Henson represents that sort of alchemy. However unfair it may be in the realms of team sport, the media thrives on individual icons.
At the post-match press conference various players were made available for interview. As it became apparent that Henson wasn't on the list, the Wales team press officer found himself under siege from protesting hacks. "He's only doing GQ magazine," quipped one.
It's to be hoped Henson-mania doesn't taint the object of our affection. Adulation sometimes brings an unwelcome friend in rugby. Soccer accommodates its Prada-clad pin-ups with ease, but the oval ball game is still wary of those it considers to be a bit of a poser. Brian O'Driscoll is the most sublime gift to Irish rugby, yet he has copped an unbelievable amount of flak in his homeland for his supposed celebrity lifestyle and flowing highlighted locks.
"I never have a night when at least five people don't come up and say, 'Get your hair cut O'Driscoll, it's mingin'" said the Irish captain, who has since opted for a more sensible barnet.
But let Henson enjoy his moment in the sun. We certainly did. Monday morning in Wales hasn't felt so good for a long time. The band was fantastic on Saturday but the spotlight belonged to the lead singer. And after the kick that put the boot in England's 12-year unbeaten run in Cardiff, setting us off on what might be a very exciting journey, we can't help falling in love with the boy who looks like Elvis.