England 29-18 Wales
The match in 30 seconds
England avenged their heavy defeat in Cardiff last year with a comprehensive win over a faltering Wales, winning a Triple Crown in the process. The reigning champions, Wales have failed to find their usual fluency in this tournament. The tone was set early on with Wales napping, Danny Care took a quick penalty and dived under the posts. Better was to come from England after 33 minutes when a Jonny May break set up up Billy Twelvetrees, who dinked the ball behind the Welsh defence and Luther Burrell crashed over in the corner.
It was only Leigh Halfpenny’s unerring boot that kept Wales to a five-point deficit at the break 20-15. In the second half, a few more penalties from Owen Farrell, who kicked all his points, gave England an 11-point lead which they kept until the final whistle. Another monster penalty from Halfpenny was all Wales had to show from the second half and it was only the heroics of the Toulon-bound full-back that stopped Burrell adding a second try to a superb opening Six Nations campaign.
England – Tries: Danny Care, Luther Burrell. Cons: Farrell (2). Penalties: Farrell (5).
Wales – Penalties: Halfpenny (6).
Wales had a poor day handling wise. There were dropped passes from Priestland, Cuthbert, North and Tipuric which saw them lose possession and territory.
England had the better tackle completion rate. They made 137 tackles, missing 19 (88%), compared to Wales’ 112 tackles made, and 24 missed. A completion rate of 82%
Both sides made six clean breaks but England beat slightly more defenders, 24 to Wales’ 19.
England ran 570 metres compared to Wales’ 420 metres.
Individually Mike Brown ran furthest with 156 metres carried. He was followed by Jack Nowell with 104 metres and Jonny May with 80. George North was Wales’ best carrier with 85m carried. Cuthbert and Faletau were next with 46m and Priestland carried 45m.
Tom Wood was England’s top tackler with 14 tackles but was on of five members of the pack to reach double figures (Morgan 13, Lawes 12, Robshaw 11, Hartley 10)
Jake Ball and Sam Warburton were Wales’ top tacklers with 13 tackles each. Dan Lydiate made 12 and Alun Wyn Jones 10.
Stuart Lancaster: “The win was right up there for us. We deserved the win. It was a different game to Ireland, which had more flow to it. Leigh Halfpenny kept Wales close for a long time. If Luther Burrell had gone in it could have been more. Jack Nowell, for a 20-year old kid facing that quality of opposition, was brilliant. Jonny May was also excellent.”
England can travel to Rome as Triple Crown champions for the first time since 2003. They showed more enterprise than Wales, with Owen Farrell marshalling the England backs adroitly.
England must go to Rome with the mindset that they can put 50 points on Italy to have a realistic hope of snatching the championship from Ireland, aware that Joe Schmidt’s men will know what is required as they kick off later.
Stuart Lancaster was happy with England’s ambition. “We’ve tried to remove the fear factor and go out and play. Sometimes your heart is in your mouth a bit but we got our reward.”
After two losses in four games, Warren Gatland will need to ponder making changes to a settled side ready for 2015 but says ‘he isn’t in to making any emotional decisions so soon after the game’.
Gatland said: “We hurt ourselves with the number of turnovers in the game. The second try came from a turnover and the first try was from a penalty. Potentially it was a Lions hang0ver, it’s been tough on these players with a Grand Slam, a Championship and a Lions Tour in 18 months but it’s professional sport and you have to get up for it.”
Wales’ decision-making was poor. Three times they chose to kick behind the defence which didn’t come off. Their ball-handling was not up to scratch and several times they wrongly chose to release the ball
On the injury front, Leigh Halfpenny dislocated his shoulder and is likely to be out for the season. Rhys Webb has damaged his ankle but the seriousness is not known.
Robin McBryde has said he will be addressing referee Romain Poite about his decisions at the scrums.
RW’s proposed England side v Italy: Mike Brown; Jack Nowell, Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees, Manu Tuilagi; Owen Farrell, Danny Care; Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw (c), Tom Wood, Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, David Wilson, Dylan Hartley, Joe Marler.
RW’s proposed Wales side v Scotland: Liam Williams; George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Alex Cuthbert;Dan Biggar, Mike Phillips; Toby Faletau, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton (c), Alun Wyn Jones, Jake Ball, Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard, Gethin Jenkins.