Tries from Josh Adams, Liam Williams, Kieran Hardy and Cory Hill helped Wales on their way to a bonus-point victory over England in Cardiff; Anthony Watson and Ben Youngs replied for the visitors
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 27/02/21 7:42pm
Wales clinched the Triple Crown and kept their Grand Slam hopes on course with an at-times controversial 40-24 win over England in Cardiff in Saturday’s Six Nations clash.
The hosts led on the back of tries from Josh Adams and Liam Williams, both of which provoked controversy, but England had clawed the deficit back to just three points by the end of the first half thanks to Anthony Watson’s finish and Owen Farrell’s kicking.
Scrum-halves Kieran Hardy and Ben Youngs crossed after the break to make the match level at 24-24, but the kicking of replacement fly-half Callum Sheedy to punish penalties from England and a late score from Cory Hill secured what was ultimately a deserved win for Wayne Pivac’s men.
The visitors somewhat set the tone for their afternoon in the opening stages, conceding three penalties early on which allowed Dan Biggar to kick Wales ahead in the sixth minute.
Breaks from Elliot Daly and then Youngs soon after the restart saw England put themselves in position to hit back five minutes later though and when Alun Wyn Jones was caught offside just inside the 22, it allowed Owen Farrell to kick his side level.
However, controversy reared its head in the 16th minute when Biggar was allowed to take a quick restart and kick to the corner for Adams to dot down out wide while England’s players were standing under the posts after Farrell had been told by referee Pascal Gauzere to speak to his players.
England were furious the score was allowed to stand – Farrell protesting that water carriers from both teams were on the field but French official Gauzere was unmoved and Biggar slotted the conversion as well for good measure.
Skipper Farrell pulled three more points back for the away side with a penalty immediately after the restart, but more controversy was to come on 29 minutes as full-back Williams took advantage of broken play to score another disputed try for Wales.
This time, the questions centred around whether Louis Rees-Zammit had knocked on in the build-up to the score as he tried to gather a kick in behind the defence prior to Williams scooping up the loose ball, but Mr Gauzere and television match official Alex Ruiz decided he had not.
The try stood and Biggar converted via the posts to put Wales 11 points clear, although England hauled themselves back into contention inside the final five minutes of the half.
Watson used his pace, power and vision to grab their first try of the match, taking a pass from Jamie George then cutting in off the right wing to finish and while Farrell could not add the extras, the inside centre reduced Wales’ lead to 17-14 at the break with a third penalty.
The Saracens man was unable to draw the visitors level five minutes after the restart when he pulled a penalty from 45 metres wide though, and three minutes later Wales surged further ahead thanks to quick-thinking from Hardy.
The scrum-half seized the opportunity to take a quick tap after Jonny Hill had infringed at a ruck and darted away from around 20 metres out, leaving tacklers grasping at thin air as he grabbed the hosts’ third converted try of the game.
It was Hardy’s opposite number Youngs who, following a penalty from Farrell, helped England get back on level terms as he picked up from a ruck and scampered over for a converted try following a break into the 22 by May.
Ill-discipline was to prove costly for them though and Sheedy – brought on at half-time in place of Biggar – punished infractions in kickable range to put Wales nine points clear as the match headed into the final 10 minutes.
And the bonus-point was wrapped up as replacement Hill powered over under the posts, putting the seal on the win and clinching the Triple Crown following wins over Ireland and Scotland – something they last did in their Grand Slam year of 2019.
Putting aside the controversy around the first two tries, this was a deserved win for Wales and went a long way to showing Wayne Pivac’s side can do it when their opponents keep 15 men on the field, after beating Ireland and Scotland sides that had a man sent off.
Those voices who were questioning Pivac’s future as head coach after a difficult start to his reign have grown quieter with each passing week of this year’s tournament – although the biggest test of their Six Nations title credentials will come when they travel to Paris to play France.
The debate around their first two tries, particularly whether it was appropriate for referee Pascal Gauzere to let Dan Biggar kick for the corner so quickly, will no doubt rage for some time to come whenever this fixture is mentioned.
But the quick thinking and vision of the Northampton Saints No. 10, not to mention Adams’ catch from it, must be admired and showed the inventive side of Wales’ game and an attacking mindset which came to the fore in a game expected in the build-up to be dominated by kicking.
The defeat left England’s Six Nations title defence in tatters and although both Owen Farrell and Eddie Jones refused to criticise the referee in their post-match interviews, it is difficult to imagine they will not be privately fuming about the decisions which went against them.
Even so, they will know they must look closely at their own discipline as a rash of penalties from start to finish proved so costly for the visitors.
Any feeling of injustice around Wales’ first two tries seemed to have been shaken off as England clawed the score back to 24-24 and it looked like they were finally getting their house in order at that point.
But the damage was done when their discipline lapsed three times in kickable range which allowed Callum Sheedy to kick nine points, all but making certain of the win prior to Cory Hill crossing for the bonus-point try.
Tweets of the match
So much to talk about! Lets see who gets in trouble for speaking their mind😂😂
Just a question, can refs be subbed off, asking for a team, I mean a friend 👀
— James Haskell (@jameshaskell) February 27, 2021