England are on track for a record third Six Nations title in a row after seeing off Wales 12-6 in London.
It wasn’t pretty in heavy rain but a first half brace from Jonny May and some tenacious team tackling helped England stay unbeaten after two rounds. They now head to Edinburgh to tackle Scotland and keep their winning run in tact.
For Wales it was close, but not close enough, in a scrappy Twickenham encounter. They lost Leigh Halfpenny with injury before kick off, with his place at fullback taken by Gareth Anscombe. It was a blow and the home team ruthlessly exerted pressure on Wales’ rookie 10 and 15.
It was a poor start from England with a knock on from Anthony Watson just after the kick off. But they didn’t concede any points and they then made Wales pay with an error of their own. Rhys Patchell spilled a bomb, Owen Farrell dinked the ball in behind and Jonny May won the race to the try-line. After three minutes the home side were already 5-0 up.
It was the Farrell and Mike Ford partnership that cut up Italy last weekend and again the two playmakers were combining well and causing problems at Twickenham. But a number of cheap penalties given away by England ensured the pressure on Wales was released. With the wet conditions both teams were content to kick their way out of danger rather than attack from deep.
England edged further in front in the 19th minute thanks a wonderful offload from Joe Launchbury. Eddie Jones’s team spread the ball to the left and Launchbury popped a lovely ball up to May for his second and the easiest of tries. Farrell converted to make it 12-0.
Wales dusted themselves off and earned a penalty after sustained pressure and no-try call from the video referee on Anscombe’s effort in the corner. Patchell nailed it to get them on the board. They enjoyed a good spell, getting more possession and building attacks, but their last pass kept letting them down. The score remained at 12-3 as half-time was sound.
The second half continued much like the first – gritty and uncompromising – as each team worked to find an opening. It was a match of crunching defence and little openings. Wales started to stretch the English line at times but with no end result. In the 55th minute George North came on for Patchell, with Anscombe switching to number 10 and Josh Adams moving to fullback. It was a timely substitution that had an impact.
Six minutes later and Wales went inches from scoring. Warren Gatland’s men made a brilliant break down the left flank and Scott Williams dived early to get over the line, but Sam Underhill made a fantastic tackle to cut him down. It was a turning point that Wales would not recover from.
As the clock wound down England pushed to kill the game off. But it was North who did some damage on the right flank. With four minutes to go Anscombe cut the lead to 12-6 with a penalty. However there would be no dream finish for Wales. England’s defence stayed strong and held on to keep their perfect Six Nations record going.