LONDON: Wales snatched a dramatic 19-12 win over England to win the Triple Crown and keep their hopes of a Six Nations Grand Slam alive at Twickenham here on Saturday.
February 26, 2012
ENGLAND 12 WALES 19
The match was all square at 12-12 with five minutes left when Wales replacement Scott Williams stole the ball in the tackle from Courtney Lawes from some 50 metres out and hacked downfield before regathering for the only try of the game.
Leigh Halfpenny converted and Wales, who had been down to 14 men after fly-half Rhys Priestland was sin-binned, were seven points clear.
England though hit back with virtually the last move of the match as wing David Strettle went over in the corner. But he was held up in the tackle by Wales centre Jonathan Davies.
Scottish video referee Iain Ramage prolonged the agony of a crowd of more than 81,000 with several minutes study before deciding no try had been scored and Wales had just their second win at Twickenham since 1988.
And it meant England, who like Wales came into this match on the back of two wins, had suffered their first defeat under acting coach Stuart Lancaster.
“It’s unbelievable,” gasped man of the match and Welsh captain Sam Warburton.
“We knew it would be the toughest game and it was so tough. We are over the moon to get the Triple Crown here.
“I am not going to say what the last team who won here in 2008 went on to do (they won the Grand Slam) but people invloved with that team say we have a really strong squad this time round. However, we will set aside thoughts of that and the Italy game in a fortnight and enjoy this for the moment.”
Wales claim Triple Crown
Wales players celebrate victory with the Triple Crown. Photo: Getty Images
Lancaster, who replaced Martin Johnson in a caretaker capacity after the World Cup fiasco, said he was proud of his largely inexperienced side.
“Wales are a team who have been together a long long time and we are a team that has been together for three weeks,” he said.
“We should take great credit from that.”
Lancaster made the bold decision to start 20-year-old Owen Farrell, playing only his third Test, at No 10 in an international for the first time after Charlie Hodgson was ruled out with a finger injury.
Farrell gave England the lead with a 23rd minute penalty.
But from the ensuing kick-off, England infringed and Halfpenny, having missed first time, was on target to make it 3-3.
Fit-again Manu Tuilagi, filling the hole left by Farrell’s move from centre to fly-half, gave England a physical presence in midfield they’d so far lacked this tournament.
It needed a brilliant tackle from Warburton to deny the Samoa-born powerhouse a try but Wales were offside and Farrell knocked over a simple penalty to make it 6-3 before Halfpenny levelled the game at 6-6.
Farrell then made light of a tricky penalty from wide on the left to give England a 9-6 half-time lead.
England’s two previous tries this tournament, one each in wins over Scotland and Italy, had been scored by Hodgson charging-down.
And they nearly had a third when his Mouritz Botha blocked Rhys Priestland’s kick early in the second half.
No try resulted this time but Priestland then went offside and was yellow-carded by referee Steve Walsh.
Farrell made it four penalties out of four and England were six points up at 12-6 with Wales a man down.
But a huge hit by Wales centre Jonathan Davies on Farrell turned an England attack into defence and Halfpenny’s third penalty cut the lead to 12-9.
Farrell then missed his first penalty from five attempts and, with 17 minutes left, England were still just three points in front.
Lancaster took off Farrell with 14 minutes and brought on the experienced Toby Flood as England looked to close out the match.
Wales then missed a great try-scoring chance when Scott Williams didn’t pass with two men outside him.
But Halfpenny tied the match with 10 minutes left and Williams then atoned in dramatic fashion.
WALES 19 (Scott Williams try; Leigh Halfpenny con, 4 pens) defENGLAND 12 (Owen Farrell 4 pens). Referee: Steve Walsh (AUS). Att: 81,598