Wales have kept their hopes of a Grand Slam alive, secured a bonus point and won the Triple Crown, with an impressive 40-24 win over arch-rivals England at the Principality Stadium. Tries from Josh Adams, Liam Williams, Kieran Hardy and Corey Hill saw England buckle in Cardiff, even if the hosts had a helping hand from the referee in the opening period.
Wales certainly had fortune on their side in the first half, as they scored two questionable tries to put England on the back foot. Their first try that was awarded came as Dan Biggar lined up to take a penalty, then instead kicked the ball towards the onrushing Adams who converted. The England players and Owen Farrell in particular were left enraged, as five water carriers were still on the field when Biggar took the penalty.
That put Wales 10-3 up but more controversy would follow with their second try, which shocked even the Welsh players as England were left dumbfounded. Louis Rees Zammit failed to catch a kick, it bounced off his hand and went forward before the ball then travelled backwards off his leg towards Williams who converted. Even former Wales fly-half James Hook said the ‘wrong decision had been made’ while Zammit himself smirked as the try was awarded.
The Six Nations gods have been smiling down on Wales this year as Ireland were given a red card in their opening day encounter and Scotland the same a week later. Having said that there was some good play from the home side, they took quick penalties to good effect throughout and it wasn’t until the second half England were able to get a foothold in the game. Referee Pascal Gauzere certainly didn’t have his finest performance in Cardiff as England were forced to fight back from 17-6 down, and he can perhaps relate to Lee Mason, who also had a tough day at the office in the Premier League today.
Anthony Watson crossed over, powering through three Welsh tackles from close range to close the deficit to six points and a further penalty brought the scores to 17-14 at the break. It was a time to take a breath for Eddie Jones and his side came out the stronger in the second 40, but were caught out by more quick thinking from the Welsh.
After Jonny Hill was caught offside in his own 22m, Hardy took the penalty quickly and before the England defence could react he had crossed for Wales’ third try, this was the first time England had conceded more than two tries in a Six Nations match in Wales. With a 24-14 lead, Jones’ side had work to do and began raising the intensity.
Farrell converted another penalty before Ben Youngs, from the base of the ruck, slipped through the Welsh defence to level the scores. Then, England’s ill-discipline, something Jones had hoped would be kept in check, let them down. Three penalties in ten minutes put Wayne Pivac’s side 33-24 up before an interception late on eventually saw Wales bundle across the line, as Corey Hill put the gloss on a battling performance.
England captain Owen Farrell said of the refereeing decisions to the BBC after the game, "That is not for us to talk about. We got our way back into it in that second half and didn't quite finish it off.
"There's plenty for us to do better.
"There is no point in talking about it now. That is for everyone else to talk about. We will control what we can control.
You can look to the referee as a reason for this latest England defeat but when the scores were level at 24 all there was no excuses. Ill-discipline, bad decision making and shoddy defending cost England in Cardiff and Wales thoroughly deserved the win.
Jones and his players have a lot to learn - you can’t win games by giving away this many penalties and this is something they must improve upon having lost two of their first three matches. It is all smiles for Wales though, who are looking to repeat their feat of 2019 and will look to stay unbeaten as they travel to Italy in two weeks time.