After two games, both sides were at risk of losing their unbeaten streak, as an inexperienced England took on a mountainous Wales at Twickenham. Let us know what you thought of the game either in the comments below or on Twitter @Ballintouch and remember to use our handy beginners A-Z guide to rugby, here.
With Wales in the unique position of favourites for this match at Twickenham, all the talk was about the callowness of the starting England side and the size of the Welsh backline.
It was the gigantic George North who almost drew first blood, two scything runs cutting the England defence to pieces and taking the Welsh into the English 22. Unlike the Irish in the earlier game of the day, Wales were in no mood to start slowly.
The sound of Swing Low reverberated around Twickenham early on, the crowd clearly keen to encourage their team and remind the Welsh where they were.
Unsurprisingly the contacts were fierce, each clatter being cheered by those watching. Leigh Halfpenny did very well to recover from a smash from Tom Croft and make ground after catching a difficult kick.
England found themselves doing a lot of defending in the opening quarter, the Welsh pushing the boundaries and making some risky passes that were delicious invitations to potential interceptors.
The Welsh remained camped in English territory and seventeen phases saw them given a penalty for a collapsed scrum. But when Halfpenny missed his penalty kick, it meant their efforts were annoyingly not to be rewarded. England once again had held firm and had been lucky.
Heartened by their efforts, it was England’s turn to explore the other end of the field. Farrell skewed a drop goal attempt wide, but he knew the referee was playing an offside advantage.
With play brought back, Farrell kicked his first points at Twickenham, and the first points of the day. After 25 minutes of no scoring, the day’s tally was doubled within a minute as the English forwards laboured over a ruck, conceded a penalty and gave Halfpenny the chance to redeem himself, which he did.
The action ping-ponged back up to the Welsh end and save for a phenomenal low tackle by Sam Warburton on Tuilagi, England would have been in. Failing to make advantage count, they went back for another offside penalty, Farrell slotting the three points easily.
The England we had all been waiting had at last turned up, another attack threatening and getting the crowd to their feet and the ball was spread left and right before the naivety of Farrell meant he chipped through into the waiting arms of Halfpenny for the mark to halt the move.
Another penalty for Halfpenny took the scores to 6-6 as both sides fought for supremacy.
England were given another chance for a penalty when Welsh defenders were adjudged to have lay over the ball at a ruck. With barely any of the half left, Farell made it three kicks from three to edge the men in white ahead to go into the break.
For an amazing third game, England profited from a charged down kick, this time Botha getting his body in the way and being hauled down just short. Priestland dived on Corbisero from an offside position earning himself a yellow card and England three points.
England’s self-belief was growing and they fronted up well as Wales tried to ensure they conceded no more points with a man off the field. In fact it was England who were concerned with shedding points, Halfpenny making full use of his minute when awarded a penalty, kicking successfully to bring the score to 12-9.
A hard fought stalemate developed as neither side could fight ahead, the game being played between the 22s. The introduction of a raft of substitutes allowed everyone to catch their breath.
An uncomfortable looking Farrell was replaced due to cramp by the returning Toby Flood, as both sides continued to batter away at each other’s defence.
With the game entering its final stages an electric break by Lee Byrne almost brought a try, but he ignored a two man overlap and England made a crucial turnover to alleviate the pressure. But when Robshaw made contact with his opposite man in the air at the resulting line out, England found themselves back defending their line.
With ten minutes to go, Matt Stevens ignored the referee’s calls and conceded a penalty on the white of the 22 line for hands in the ruck. Halfpenny made no mistake and once again a draw threatened.
With any more scores likely to be the winner it was Wales that struck, Scott Williams gathering his kick through to score. Halfpenny made sure they got the full seven points with barely three minutes to go.
With barely any time remaining, England attacked. Toby Flood’s cross field kick almost saw Strettle snaffle the bouncing ball from George North with the try line inches away, but England had the throw. The England forwards threw themselves at the Welsh defence as time ran down, England getting a penalty and one last chance from the line out.
The maul rumbled forward and the forwards got within one metre of the Welsh line. The ball was then whipped wide through the hands eventually to Strettle to dive over for a TMO decision. Agonising replays proved hard to call, with the final decision being inconclusive and thus a verdict of no try given. With the match well into overtime, that was that and Wales had their first win at Twickenham in fourteen years.
A phenomenal match was brought to a close with the faces of the Welsh saying all, each one delighted yet clearly exhausted.
Yet again an England game has a TMO decision as a talking point. However, unlike previous games, this one was difficult to call, the inkling that Strettle had momentarily grounded the ball not backed up by the replays, and the awarding of a try would have been generous to the home side and harsh on their visitors.
But if he had given it, a draw would have been a fair reflection of this match. Both sides gave everything and for long periods the pre-match talk looked to be confounded by a impressively willing English side.
There really was nothing between either side, each having players that impressed. For Wales, Warburton was immense in defence, his tackle of Tuilagi rightly highlighted by the BBC as a “tackle of the tournament”. George North looked like he was going to score tries for fun after the first five minutes, but he and the rest of the Welsh ‘giants’ were well marshalled.
All the talk will be about Farrell and rightly so. For his first start at 10 he was impressive, his calmness and management exemplary. Is he really only 20? Even with a fit Hodgson and Flood, he should start.
Outside him Brad Barritt looked much more comfortable in his normal position of 12 and got through another huge body of work. He provided a solid base for Tuilagi to do what he does best.
Up front Corbisero added to his growing reputation, and Ben Morgan along with lee Dickson gave England some go forward that had been missing so far this tournament.
Along with Warburton and North, Leigh Halfpenny answered all questions asked of him, whilst Mike Phillips kept the Welsh efforts ticking along. The collisions were intense, Davies and Roberts smashing anything that came near their channels.
But what will be key to take away from this match is that Wales are becoming a team that can beat sides when it matters. Regardless who is wearing the shirt, England at home is a hard fixture so to come away with a seven point win will be very pleasing to the Welsh management.
England will be disappointed as but for a slightly more favourable camera angle, they could have drawn this game and neither side would have any complaints.
It was unlikely England were going to go the whole tournament unbeaten and there is still a risk of losing their final two matches against Ireland and France. But after today’s efforts, they will be a lot closer than many had though before 4pm.
Wales however could go all the way. They love a Grand Slam in Cardiff and they are now one step closer, with the Triple Crown already in their pockets.
England are the coming team while Wales are playing with a more immediate focus. Blessed with the experience of a World Cup together they will be aiming to keep the winning streak going and deny favourites France from getting their hands on the trophy again.
As we reach the half way stage of the tournament some fascinating sub plots are developing but who ever wins it this year, at least we will be able to say we were entertained.
ENGLAND (9) 12
Pens: Farrell 4
WALES (6) 19
Try: S Williams Con: Halfpenny Pens: Halfpenny 4
England : 15-Ben Foden, 14-Chris Ashton, 13-Manu Tuilagi, 12-Brad Barritt, 11-David Strettle, 10-Owen Farrell, 9-Lee Dickson; 1 Alex Corbisiero, 2-Dylan Hartley, 3-Dan Cole, 4-Mouritz Botha, 5-Geoff Parling, 6-Tom Croft, 7-Chris Robshaw, 8-Ben Morgan.
Replacements: 16-Rob Webber, 17-Matt Stevens, 18-Courtney Lawes, 19-Phil Dowson, 20-Ben Youngs, 21-Toby Flood, 22-Mike Brown
Wales : 15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-Alex Cuthbert, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Jamie Roberts, 11-George North, 10-Rhys Priestland, 9-Mike Phillips; 1-Gethin Jenkins, 2-Ken Owens, 3-Adam Jones, 4-Alun Wyn Jones, 5-Ian Evans, 6-Dan Lydiate, 7-Sam Warburton, 8-Toby Faletau.
Replacements: 16-Richard Hibbard, 17-Paul James, 18-Ryan Jones, 19-Justin Tipuric, 20-Lloyd Williams, 21-Stephen Jones, 22-Scott Williams.
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