The home side hold on to win 23-19

England hold off Wales in frantic second half

The first half at Twickenham had all the structure of soup, but England were in control. They held Wales at arms length. At 12-0 ahead, courtesy of Marcus Smith‘s boot, it was looking like the kind of so-so result that has Test coaches saying ‘Well, a win’s a win, mate…’

The second half kicked into overdrive though, as Wales left it late to greedily hunt a come-from-behind victory. And they could have done so thanks to three late tries and two minutes worth of clock left to play with. They had energy, they were chancing their hand.

In the end England edged it, 23-19, and six penalty kicks from (player of the match) Smith ensured they had just enough breathing room. But the breathing will have been ragged at the end.

England actually stretched out to a 17-point lead early in the second, when Alex Dombrandt saw a gift sail over the top of a Welsh lineout. He caught an overthrow and cut a run straight for the try line. But if some assumed England could pile it on, the score served more as a spur to the Welsh.

Wales had run into brick walls in the first half – though Alex Cuthbert did blow the doors off on one bruising run that ultimately came to nothing. But after Dombrandt’s score, they began to make serious inroads. And with Tomos Williams threading a needle to hit Josh Adams, a try came in reply. The race was on.

Then Nick Tompkins went over, eight phases into a Welsh charge.

There wasn’t exactly a sense of panic descending on Twickenham, especially after two calming three-pointers from Smith. However, pulses did quicken at the closing moments as replacement nine Kieran Hardy took a tap penalty to go over, slipping past defenders like a knife between the ribs.

Wales captain Dan Biggar had the wherewithal to take a rapid, drop-kicked conversion and then we were off. Wales needed another to take the contest – to take the lead for the only time in the match, with the final play.

In the end a knock-on was forced as they hunted the result, and new England men’s record holder Ben Youngs sent the ball off to resign Wales to a fifth successive away loss to England in the Six Nations. Should England have created more? A win’s a win and all that.

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