Wales took a big step towards the Six Nations title by beating England 21-13 in Cardiff on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
Wales’ 12th consecutive Test win means that only Scotland (at Murrayfield) and Ireland (at the Millennium Stadium) stand between Warren Gatland’s men and a Six Nations Grand Slam. England, who suffered their first defeat of what has until now been a highly-impressive campaign, will take on Italy and Scotland at Twickenham.
Wales were full value for this win. They had 65% of the possession and 68% of the territory. England were forced to make 210 tackles, compared to just 88 by the hosts.
The visitors’ defence was outstanding – they completed 94% of their tackles – but Wales were able to crack it twice in the last 12 minutes, and that proved to be enough to claim a crucial win.
This was a fiercely fought contest from start to finish.
England had an early opportunity to open the scoring through a penalty, but Elliot Daly’s 50m effort never came close to the posts. Wales, in contrast, opted to put their first kickable penalty into touch and push for five points. In the end, they didn’t get any as the visitors’ defence stood firm.
Owen Farrell and Gareth Anscombe then traded penalties, before England scored the first try of the match, in the 27th minute, when Tom Curry broke away from a ruck.
Wales hammered away at England’s tryline, but once again they could not break through the white wall and it was the visitors who finished the first half hot on the attack. Farrell’s cross-kick was tapped in-field by Jack Nowell, but George North picked up the loose ball and the hosts survived.
England therefore went into the break 10-3 ahead, despite having just 39% of the possession and 36% of the territory.
However, that lead was slashed to just one point after two penalty goals from Anscombe, who was replaced by Dan Bigger at the end of the third quarter.
Curry won a breakdown penalty soon afterwards, which Farrell kicked to make it 13-9, but Wales continued to dominate the game. The hosts took the ball through an incredible 34 phases before lock Cory Hill crashed over to score a try that Biggar converted.
Wales then sealed victory with three minutes to go when Biggar’s cross-kick was collected by Josh Adams, who was able to reach out and score.
Wales – Tries: Cory Hill, Josh Adams. Conversion: Dan Biggar. Penalties: Gareth Anscombe (2).
England – Try: Tom Curry. Conversion: Owen Farrell. Penalty: Farrell.
Wales – 15 Liam Williams 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Josh Navidi , 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Rob Evans, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Tomas Francis.
Sub: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Owen Watkin.
England – 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Mark Wilson, 5 George Kruis, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ben Moon.
Subs: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Brad Shields, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Joe Cokanasiga.