Jonny May scored two tries in England’s 12-6 win against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
Wales came into this Six Nations clash with confidence, having smashed Scotland 34-7 in Cardiff last weekend, but England showed why they are favourites to claim a third consecutive Six Nations crown with a hard-fought victory.
The hosts scored the only tries of the match, defended superbly and won the aerial battle to secure a 24th win under coach Eddie Jones in 25 Tests.
Wales suffered a blow earlier in the day when fullback Leigh Halfpenny was ruled out of the match with a foot infection. Gareth Anscombe, who was originally named on the bench, wore the No 15 jersey instead.
England had been forced to make a change to their backline too, with the injured Ben Youngs replaced by Danny Care, who became his country’s most-capped scrumhalf (78 Tests). And it was Care’s box kick that resulted in a third-minute try for his side.
Rhys Patchell, who England coach Eddie Jones had called ‘Wales’ third-choice flyhalf’ earlier in the week, lost a high-ball battle to Anthony Watson. Owen Farrell then spotted space behind the Wales defence and kicked ahead for May, who picked the ball up just before the line and slid over for his first Six Nations try.
Farrell missed the conversion, before Patchell was off-target with a penalty-goal attempt.
England extended their lead at the end of the first quarter, after a 25-phase attack ended with an excellent offload in the tackle by Joe Launchbury that put May away for his second. This time, Farrell added the extras.
Wales were unlucky not to be awarded a try four minutes later. With the referee playing a penalty advantage, Patchell’s cross-kick came off Steff Evans’ knee, and TV replays showed Anscombe applying downward pressure to the ball just before Watson intervened. The TMO, though, somehow saw it differently, and Wales had to settle for just three points.
The Welsh pushed hard for a try before half-time, but the excellent England defence kept them out.
After a scoreless third quarter, the match sparked back into life in the 62nd minute when replacement George North appeared to have put Scott Williams away. The centre dived just short of the tryline, hoping his momentum would carry him over on the slippery surface, but a great tackle by Sam Underhill forced him into touch.
With six minutes to go, Wales counter-attacked from inside their half. Anscombe took play up to England’s 22, with Hadleigh Parkes’ grubber then bouncing away from Evans just before the tryline. However, the referee was playing advantage and Anscombe kicked the penalty to reduce the deficit to six.
From the restart, Wales took the ball through 23 phases, won a penalty and kicked for touch as the clock ticked past 80 minutes. They won the lineout, but a knock-on soon afterwards allowed England to boot the ball into touch.
England – Tries: Jonny May (2). Conversion: Owen Farrell.
Wales – Penalties: Rhys Patchell, Gareth Anscombe.
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola.
Subs: 16 Jamie George, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 George Kruis, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jack Nowell.
Wales – 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans.
Subs: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Owen Watkin, 23 George North.
Photo: Lynne Cameron/Getty Images