Wales fightback stuns England
Wales produced a breath-taking second half of Rugby to shatter England’s dreams of a Grand Slam. Despite losing 3-10 at the interval, Wales fought back, claiming a record-breaking 12th Test win in the process.
England’s dreams of a Grand Slam in the year’s Six Nations tournament are over as Wales produced a stunning fightback to beat England 21-13. Tries from Cory Hill and Josh Adams in the final quarter of the game handed a first defeat of the tournament to England and kept Wales’s Grand Slam hopes very much alive.
Despite England going into the Principality Stadium clash with Wales as bookies favourites and the in-form team, the noisy home support inspired Wales, who produced a stunning fightback to defeat Eddie Jones’ team and claim a history-making 12th consecutive Test win.
It was a victory that looked beyond the reach of Wales at the interval. England, as they had done in comprehensive victories over Ireland and France, started the brighter of the two teams. Two Owen Farrell penalties and a converted Tom Curry try on his first international appearance gave the visitors a commanding early lead. At the interval, an Anscombe penalty were the only points on the board for the Welsh and they trailed the English by 3-10.
Wales’ performances in the opening two games against France and Italy were far from convincing. The slow start to this encounter with bitter enemies England would have had many in the packed Millennium Stadium fearing the worst. Therefore, credit for this victory must go to the Wales coaching duo of Warren Gatland and his assistant Shaun Edwards, who rejuvenated the players at the break.
Wales scored first in the second half, with the reliable Anscombe kicking the second of his three penalties to reduce the deficit to just two.
The pivotal moment of the match came shortly before the 64th minute. A three and a half minute display of pure power that started with a Mark Wilson knock on and finished 35 phases later with Liam Williams scoring to give Wales the lead for the first time in the game. It was a momentous period of play and England were being dragged into a street fight, a tactic that suited the Welsh more than the English.
In the 78th minute, Josh Adams put the game beyond the English. Claiming a delightful cross-field kick by substitute Dan Biggar, the 23-year-old winger plucked the ball from the air, running to score. This prompted wild scenes of jubilation in Cardiff. A win that moves Wales above England in in World Rugby’s rankings.
This result means if Wales beat Scotland in two week’s time, then only Ireland stands between them and their first Grand Slam since 2012. The pair meet in the final day of fixtures and it looks likely that it will be a title decider.
England’s Billy Vunipola said Wales’s ability to control the tempo of the game was a key factor in the defeat. He explained that the Welsh tactic of stopping the play when possible was instrumental to their win, saying:
Every time the game started to speed up, one of their players would go down. They wanted us to play at their tempo and they did that really well. They were really smart in holding the ball in the ruck.– Billy Vunipola England and Saracens.
England will still have hopes of winning the Six Nations, but these hopes now realistically rest on Ireland beating Wales. England’s injury woes have increased with the news that Courtney Lawes has been ruled out for the rest of the Six Nations. Lawes was helped off the field in the 77th minute in Saturday’s game and an MRI scan on his calf diagnosed a problem which will keep him on the side-lines. Eddie Jones is hoping for better news on Maro Itoje, with the player in a race against time to be fit for the game against Italy.
Next up for England is the likely wooden spoon winners, Italy. The Italians are yet to win a game and have a negative points difference of 34. Scotland will be England’s last opponents – the pair face off at Twickenham on March 16th.