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Wales derail England's Grand Slam attempt and take over as Six Nations leaders

Warren Gatland’s side bullied their way through 34 phases to force Cory Hill’s match-turning try.

Wales celebrate Hill's try.
Wales celebrate Hill's try.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Wales 21

England 13

NO GUTS NO glory.

Wales held firm in the face of England’s suffocating pressure early on and produced an enormous second-half performance to keep their own Grand Slam bid on course, while derailing England’s.

Trailing 3-10 at the half-way point, Warren Gatland’s men scored two unanswered tries in the final 12 minutes to swing the Test and the Championship their way. 

The game-turning try came 12 minutes from time when Cory Hill barrelled over the try-line after 34 enthralling and exhausting phases to give the hosts in Cardiff a 16-13 lead.

And had there been a roof on the Principality Stadium, it might well have come off when Dan Biggar capped a brilliant run as a replacement with a cross-field kick to Josh Adams, who juggled the ball as he contorted his body towards the try-line — as if the extra drama was needed.

With an experienced fullback in Liam Williams, England were not able to kick and chase their way to tries as they did so effectively against Ireland and France in the opening rounds.

However, the physicality of Eddie Jones’ side kept them on top through the first-half as they stunted Wales at source.

After trading penalties, the Test appeared to tilt England’s way in the 26th minute. Courtney Lawes reached through bodies to knock the ball free from a defensive Welsh maul.

Tom Curry celebrates scoring their first try with Henry Slade and Billy Vunipola Curry celebrates his first-half try. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Billy Vunipola and then Lawes trucked up before Tom Curry showed a keen eye for a gap as Justin Tipuric was rising after a big hit on Ben Youngs. The 20-year-old Sale Shark punished Wales by running through the vacant pillar position and over the try-line.

Wales’ best first-half bout of pressure in England’s third came mostly without the ball as Gareth Anscombe ran turnover ball and chipped into the middle of the England 22.

Youngs fumbled slightly and was hit hard close to his own posts. Despite some ferocious Alun Wyn Jones clean-outs, England held firm and Youngs’ clearing box-kick was chased to perfection by Jonny May, whose tackle stopped Liam Williams an attacking run.

Trailing 3-10 at the half-time interval, Wales forced a way back into the game through Anscombe’s boot. Kyle Sinckler, labelled an emotional timebomb pre-match by Warren Gatland, began to lose his discipline after racking up an enormous 20 tackles and two consecutive concessions led to Anscombe making it a one-score game with 24 minutes to play.

Jonny May and Henry Slade with Gareth Anscombe and Josh Adams Players rise to compete for a high ball. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The brilliant Curry forced a timely penalty to allow Farrell nudge England 9-13 ahead minutes later. The match remained balanced on a knife-edge, but there was more of the hammer than the sickle to Wales’ try.

Gatland’s men mounted pressure with brutish phase after phase. The totemic Alun Wyn Jones rolled his way close to the line and 10 phases later his team were still pushing, looking for an inch when the ball needed to go wide, but found its way to the second row’s hands. He wisely carried.

Eventually, the red arrows did fan out of their narrow formation and Biggar unleashed a  long pass from left to right for George North to have a run at the try-line. He was caught short, but England were stretched enough to finally show a gap on phase 34 and Hill lunged over.

Biggar, introduced to an ovation on the hour mark, heard rapturous appreciation for his conversion. England were unable to find grip enough to hit back and it was Biggar who rounded off the day with a superb cross-field kick to Adams. The wing couldn’t take the ball cleanly, but did well to reach and grab the pill before it hit the ground and his momentum took him over the line.

With a record 12th straight win under their belt, Wales will pick up the push for a Grand Slam in two weeks when they travel to meet Scotland in Murrayfield. They will host Ireland, who are eight points behind the leaders before tackling Italy, on the final day in Cardiff.

Scorers

Wales

Tries: C Hill, J Adams

Conversions: D Biggar (1/2)

Penalties: G Anscombe (3/3)

England

Tries: T Curry

Conversions: O Farrell (1/1)

Penalties: E Daly 0/1, O Farrell (2/2)

 

Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey look ahead to Ireland’s Six Nations meeting with Italy and discuss the week’s biggest stories in the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly.


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

 

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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