The lowdown on the England-Wales clash at Twickenham – how did the sides shape up before their summer tours?
England outscored Wales five tries to one to lift the inaugural Old Mutual Wealth Cup. Wales started the better, leading 10-0 after 12 minutes thanks to the boot of Dan Biggar and Rob Evans’s early try. However, Luther Burrell and Anthony Watson crossed to narrow the gap to 13-10 at half-time – and Wales couldn’t notch a single point in the second 40 minutes. Ben Youngs, Jack Clifford and Marland Yarde added further tries and had George Ford been more accurate with his goalkicking the scoreline would have made even uglier reading for Warren Gatland and his team.
Fast and loose – To be fair, this could fall in either the ‘hot’ or ‘not’ column depending on your point of view! Neither England nor Wales had played for a couple of months and this match provided a decent warm-up ahead of the tours to Australia and New Zealand respectively. With the sun shining, they both kept the ball in hand, trying out various backs moves, but there were plenty of errors too – dropped balls, knock-ons, poor passes and the like.
It was entertaining but both teams will need to tighten up their games before taking on their southern hemisphere opponents. England will be pleased with their clinical edge, if not the goalkicking, as it’s rare for any side to score five tries against Wales. They showed more creativity and invention than during the Six Nations, and will want to continue that development in Australia.
Wales failed to capitalise on a couple of breaks and if they fail to take chances like that against the All Blacks, they have no chance of winning in New Zealand for those opportunities will be few and far between. At least their scramble defence prevented a couple of other possible England tries.
Space invaders – Wales clearly came with a plan to close down England’s playmakers and George Ford found that out early on. On numerous occasions the likes of Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams put in big hits on the fly-half, closing down his ability to create attacks and distribute the ball accurately. It often led to knock-ons and loose passes.
Jonathan Joseph, too, had his space restricted and Wales scrambled well in defence too. At the end of the first half, England looked to have acres of space out wide after a turnover at a maul, but Liam Williams did well to tackle Anthony Watson before he left the 22, thus shutting down another England attack before it got started. In the second half, though, Wales found themselves stretched more severely in defence and when they managed to get hold of the ball, they couldn’t keep hold of it for very long. As Warren Gatland said post-match, they need to keep the tempo high for 80 minutes, rather than starting well and then dipping off.
Family-packed crowd – Twickenham has become know as a bit of home for corporate types in recent years, but this game saw far more families in attendance – 10% of the crowd were children. There were plenty of fans who don’t normally have access to tickets for RBS 6 Nations games or autumn Internationals – and they clearly enjoyed the May sunshine, looking resplendent in white and red.
Biggar’s outburst – Jack Clifford’s try caused controversy in the 47th minute. The No 8, impressive throughout, broke clear from halfway to score near the posts and the TMO was called in to look at whether there was a knock-on from Dan Cole in the build-up. While the TMO ruled no, Wales – and particularly Dan Biggar – clearly felt it was the wrong decision, feeling Cole had deliberately tried to intercept the ball and had knocked it on. Of course players are not going to agree with every decision made by the officials, but the way Wales’ fly-half then remonstrated with the referee and refused to give George Ford the ball for the conversion is not the type of thing you want to see on the field.
Ford’s kicking – In the first half alone, George Ford missed two conversions and a penalty for a total of 0% success rate from the tee. He’s looked short of confidence all season and this clearly came through as he took shots at goal. He started the second half with one kick from hand charged down and another missed conversion. In all, he slotted only one kick from seven – a shocking return. And the biggest cheer of the afternoon came when he slotted his first kick, converting Jack Clifford’s try from in front of the posts.
The pressure was on Ford, with a lot of talk of whether Owen Farrell should wear the No 10 jersey in Australia. On this evidence, the Saracen has to start – he was faultless from the tee in the Aviva Premiership final and has been in sublime form in 2016, improving his distribution and running game no end. Although, Eddie Jones described Ford’s performance as “brilliant”, so selection might not be quite that straightforward!
TMO check – It has to be said that Anthony Watson showed great awareness to twist and turn and stretch his hands above his head to touch the ball down when being tackle by George North. The decision of whether to award a try was put to the TMO and while one angle looked to show Watson touching the ball down on the line, others – not looked at by the officials – raised questions as to whether he was short. Surely all angles should be looked at to determine whether a try has been scored?
ENGLAND: M Brown; A Watson, J Joseph (E Daly 66), L Burrell, M Yarde; G Ford (O Devoto 75) B Youngs (D Care 56); M Mullan (E Genge 66), D Hartley (capt, T Taylor 77), D Cole (P Hill 69), J Launchbury, C Lawes (D Attwood 62), T Harrison, J Haskell (M Kvesic 62), J Clifford.
Tries: Burrell, Watson, Youngs, Clifford, Yarde. Con: Ford.
WALES: Liam Williams; G North, S Williams (G Anscombe 56), J Roberts, H Amos; D Biggar (R Priestland 56), R Webb (Lloyd Williams 66); R Evans (G Jenkins 56), S Baldwin (K Dacey 56), S Lee (R Jones 62), J Ball, AW Jones (J Turnbull 58), R Moriarty, Dan Lydiate (capt, J King 24), T Faletau.
Try: Evans. Con: Biggar. Pens: Biggar 2.
Man of the Match: Joe Launchbury
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