England managed to defeat Wales in an engrossing encounter at Twickenham on Saturday as Eddie Jones avenged Stuart Lancaster’s loss at the World Cup last year. Both nations came into this game undefeated in this years Six Nations, England three wins from three with wins over Scotland, Italy and Ireland. The visitors Wales also showing encouraging form, overcoming Scotland and France, and playing out a draw against the Ireland. As the tension built before this clash, many people believed the winner of this game would go on to win the tournament. Mind games were seen as a big factor, with both coaches vastly experienced in this department. Eddie Jones proved to have got the better of New Zealander Warren Gatland. The Aussie is only four games into the England job, having taken over Stuart Lancaster after England’s dismal display at last years World Cup.
The game was going well for the home side in the ‘Cabbage Patch’, with Owen Farrell putting his side 3-0 up inside ten minutes with a penalty. England seemed to be in control, having the majority of the possession, but Wales had their first real glimpse of their opponents try line five minutes later. It was a scramble on the line, making it very difficult for the referee to make a decision. No try was given in amongst the scuffle. Two more penalties from Farrell extended England’s lead to 9-0 just over the 20 minute mark and the home side seemed to be in full throttle, as the first try of the match came from Anthony Watson for the men in white, scoring on the 33rd minute. Farrell again kept up his fine form in front of the posts, securing a 16-0 advantage with a sublime conversion.
Jones’ men took this comfortable lead into the break, with the Welsh not being able to get into the game at all. During the first half, Wales missed 19 tackles, conceded 8 penalties and lost 2 lineouts. Just six minutes into the second half, Farrell was at it again with another penalty, flying through the middle of the sticks to stretch his sides lead to 19-0. Wales were forced to come out and play in the second half, and they responded with their first score on the board. England won a lineout, but a kick forward by England’s number 10 George Forde was charged down by his opposite number Dan Biggar, who raced to the try line to score for Wales. The Welshman converted from the following kick, making it 19-7.
Despite these encouraging signs for Wales, captain Sam Warburton was taken off on a stretcher with just over 20 minutes to play. Deep into the second half, Wales gave away a penalty for failing to roll away. Farrell was yet again on point to earn England three points from 40 metres, his kick creeping inches inside the posts. In a matter of minutes, England’s man of the moment created a wider margin from another penalty, this one slightly further at 42 metres.
England seemed to be home and dry at 25-7 with 8 minutes to play. However, Wales were given a life line when Dan Cole was sent to the sin bin to sit out the rest of the game. Wales were awarded a penalty for Cole collapsing the scrum, but it appears that Cole was fouled during this scenario, after contact was made by Welsh substitute Tomas Francis. No punishment was given to the Welshman, but a penalty was awarded for England. Wales seemed to have given their rivals a life line on this occasion, but bounced back impressively with 6 minutes left. After some great play up to the try line, George North scored for Wales, with Rhys Priestland converting to make it 25-14. England seemed to be on the back foot now, surely Cole’s dismissal harming their efforts.
Flashbacks of 7 months ago started to take place, as Taulupe Faletau scored to bring Wales ever closer to another almighty comeback. Priestland again converted, making it 25-21. Over the 80th minute mark, Wales continued to pile on the pressure. Just 25 metres from England’s try line, the Welsh pushed forward, trying to find a way through. North charged forward for the visitors, but he was pushed into touch by Manu Tuilagi and failed to offload in time. The Welsh heads dropped, as England reclaimed the ball and thumped it into the stands to gain their revenge.
The Triple Crown has been secured, with victories over Scotland, Ireland and now Wales, and with one game to go England have already won the Six Nations, after France lost to Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday. France host England in Paris on the 19th of March, the last game of this years competition. The away side will be hoping to achieve a first Grand Slam in 13 years by defeating France to make it 5 wins out of 5. The French currently sit fourth in the table, which is where they finished last year. With no much to play for Les Bleus, England should take full control with nothing to lose going into this game. Eddie Jones should have his players ready, having shown fine form since his arrival. I believe England will defeat France and achieve the Grand Slam, but, the accomplishment of winning the Six Nations should not over shadow the failure of last years World Cup.
Written by Joe Dutton.