A 23-point haul from flyhalf Dan Biggar enabled injury-hit Wales to overcome England 28-25 in a gripping Pool A encounter at Twickenham on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
What a Test match this was. In undoubtedly the most highly anticipated clash of the World Cup thus far, the two home nations duly produced a passionate and committed effort, which made for an engrossing encounter that completely lived up to its pre-match billing.
England looked to have the match won when they restored a seven-point advantage with just over 10 minutes to play, but Wales produced a magical period of play that will not be quickly forgotten.
Although replacement Gareth Davies was the man who scored Wales’ solitary try, it was Biggar who rose to the occasion, slotting seven penalties and a conversion on surely the finest night of his career.
The hard-fought victory takes Wales clear to the top of the so-called Pool of Death, and they now look assured of securing a play-off place, while England will be left to reflect on a missed opportunity.
Nothing separated the two sides after the opening quarter, with Biggar knocking over a couple of penalties, while opposite number Owen Farrell slotted a penalty and a well-taken drop goal.
However, England won another penalty after a dominant scrum in the 24th minute, and it seemed to signal a momentum shift as the home side slowly started to take control.
They quickly turned that ascendancy into points as winger Jonny May finished off a beautifully worked try, which had its origins in lineout set play, but was created by the vision of scrumhalf Ben Youngs.
In a matter of 12 minutes, England went from trailing by three points to leading by 10, and it was no surprise that a vociferous Twickenham crowd quickly found their voice.
Importantly for Wales, though, Biggar knocked over a third penalty just before half-time to ensure his side remained just one score behind England at the break.
Farrell and Biggar traded a couple more penalties in the first 15 minutes after half-time, but the Welsh pivot then drew his team further back into the match when he slotted a sixth three-pointer just before the hour mark.
Suddenly it was Wales who had England on the run, and yet they then suffered a series of almighty injury blows, with centre Scott Williams, winger Hallam Amos and fullback Liam Williams prematurely leaving the field, forcing a complete backline reshuffle.
In the 69th minute Farrell restored England to a seven-point advantage, but that was cancelled out in a moment of magic as Welsh replacement Lloyd Williams produced a beautiful break down the left wing and then put in a well-weighted infield kick collected by Davies to score under the posts.
After Biggar stepped up to slot an outstanding long-distance penalty to maintain his 100 percent record in front of posts, England then spurned a late shot at goal to go for the draw, a decision they’ll be left to regret after being bundled into touch from the resultant lineout.
From thereon, Wales held on for a now famous win.
England – Try: Jonny May. Conversion: Owen Farrell. Penalties: Farrell (5). Drop goal: Farrell.
Wales – Try: Gareth Davies. Conversion: Dan Biggar. Penalties: Biggar (7).
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Sam Burgess, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Geoff Parling, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Subs: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 James Haskell, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 George Ford, 23 Alex Goode.
Wales – 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Subs: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Alex Cuthbert.
Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images