Wales took a giant step towards winning this year’s Six Nations title when they claimed a hard-fought 21-13 triumph over England in Cardiff on Saturday.
In a tough and uncompromising duel, characterised by several huge collisions, England’s defence kept Wales at bay for long periods. Wales finished stronger, however, and eventually outscored their opponents by two tries to one with both the home side’s five-pointer scored in the game’s closing stages.
The win means Wales moves above England at the top of the table and they have now won a record 12 successive Tests.
Both teams came into this fixture as the only unbeaten teams in the competition which meant there was plenty of hype in the build-up. And that was certainly justified as the sides gave their all for the full 80 minutes.
The match started at a frenetic pace with Wales doing most of the early attacking and although they had the bulk of the possession and territory, they were frustrated by the superb defensive efforts of their opponents.
England had an early opportunity to open the scoring when Elliot Daly lined up a long range shot at goal – after Justin Tipuric was blown up for a no-arms tackle on Billy Vunipola – but his effort was wide of the mark.
Wales held the upper-hand over the next 15 minutes but despite their dominance, they could not breach the visitors’ defence.
And it was England who eventually took the lead in the 18th minute courtesy of an Owen Farrell penalty, after an indiscretion at a scrum from Wales.
Wales didn’t take long to respond and in the 24th minute Gareth Anscombe restored parity with a penalty of his own after Kyle Sinckler was punished for a late tackle.
That penalty seemed to rally English spirits and three minutes later, during a rare visit to Wales’ 22, Tom Curry burst through a hole around the fringe of a ruck and crossed for the opening try.
Farrell added the extras which gave his side a 10-3 lead and although both sides spent time inside their opponents’ 22 during the half’s closing stages, neither side would add to their points tally.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first with Wales having little reward despite numerous incursions in England’s half.
They eventually narrowed the gap to three points when Anscombe slotted another penalty after Jonny May held onto the ball at a breakdown.
And in the 57th minute, Anscombe made it a one-point game when he landed a three-pointer from the kicking tee after Sinckler was blown up for a dangerous tackle on Alun Wyn Jones.
However, England struck back in the 63rd minute when Farrell added another penalty, after Hadleigh Parkes infringed at a ruck.
Wales needed a response and that came five minutes later when, after taking the ball through 34 phases in the build-up, Cory Hill crashed over from close quarters to give his side the lead for the first time.
Dan Biggar slotted the conversion which meant Wales led 16-13 and the game was up for grabs. Wales finished stronger though and in the 78th minute Biggar launched an inch-perfect cross-field kick which Josh Adams gathered before crossing the whitewash for the try which sealed his side’s win.
Tries: Hill, Adams
Pens: Anscombe 3
Pens: Farrell 2