England beat Wales 25-21 at Twickenham on Saturday to claim the Triple Crown and take a giant step towards the Grand Slam. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The match billed as the Six Nations title decider was a lopsided affair for 70 minutes as England took a 25-7 lead. Wales hit back with two late converted tries, but the hosts held their nerve to gain revenge for last year's World Cup defeat. Eddie Jones's men now need to beat France in Paris to secure the title and a first Grand Slam since 2003.
The pre-game hype centred around who had the better scrum and that proved to be the only area in which England and Wales were evenly matched. England, thanks mainly to second rower Maro Itoje, bullied Wales at the breakdown and were in full command at the lineouts too.
Having bossed territory and possession, flyhalf George Ford opened the scoring with a penalty in the 10th minute, before what appeared to be a well-worked try by prop Dan Cole was ruled out by the TMO, who was unable to see any clear grounding.
Ford and inside centre Owen Farrell knocked over a penalty apiece as the hosts led 9-0 inside the opening quarter of the match.
On the half-hour mark, Itoje carved through Wales' defence with a brilliant carry and offloaded to fullback Mike Brown, who in turn drew the last defender before releasing winger Anthony Watson to finish in the left corner.
The visitors conceded another penalty early in the second half, which Farrell slotted, before Wales captain Sam Warburton was stretchered off the field. Flyhalf Dan Biggar then charged down Ford's kick to go in under the sticks unopposed.
But a shift in momentum in the last 10 minutes set the game up for a tighter finish than many anticipated.
Wales, despite conceding two further penalty goals after Biggar's try, finished with a flourish, scoring two quick-fire tries from winger George North and No 8 Taulupe Faletau. But their efforts were in vain as England held on for an impressive win.
England – Try: Anthony Watson. Conversion: Owen Farrell. Penalties: George Ford (2), Farrell (4).
Wales – Try: Dan Biggar, George North, Taulupe Faletau. Conversions: Biggar, Rhys Priestland (2).
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Joe Marler.
Subs: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Jack Clifford, 21 Danny Care, 22 Manu Tuilagi, 23 Elliot Daly.
Wales – 15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Rob Evans.
Subs: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Tom Francis, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Gareth Anscombe.
Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images