Brilliant Wales claim place in history with record-breaking win
Warren Gatland barely celebrated as his Welsh team secured their place in history with stunning 21-13 victory over England in Cardiff. It didn’t really matter, as all around him were losing their collective heads.
Something’s gotta give bellowed the stadium announcer – and they weren’t wrong. Two unbeaten teams, Wales searching for a record 12th consecutive test victory and England seeking to win their sixth straight Guinness Six Nations match with their adversaries from across the Severn.
They say it’s lucky for Wales when the year ends in nine – with a run of seven straight victories against England stretching all the way back to 1949.
And so it was again.
This match marked two decades since Scott Gibbs denied England a Grand Slam at Wembley with his famous try, a score so seismic its reverberations still echo in the valleys.
And it’s fair to say that Cory Hill’s second half score will go down in similar folklore, as Gatland’s quest for the Grand Slam now heads to Edinburgh.
After the pre-match hymns and arias it was soon time for the blood and thunder, in the very best traditions of his storied and intense rivalry.
England’s Elliot Daly sent an early penalty chance wide and short as charge down followed knock on, punctuated by wave upon wave of juddering tackles.
Both teams kicked and chased with little reward until Owen Farrell broke the deadlock with the first of two penalties, after Kyle Sinckler’s hustle had forced Rob Evans into an error.
Gareth Anscombe levelled from in front of the posts but the match was increasingly an aerial battle, with both sides ground forces cancelling each other out.
And then, quick as a wink, England sprung from their beachhead and breached the red line, Courtney Lawes catching Wales napping before Tom Curry picked and went for an opportunist 27th minute score.
There was increasingly a swagger about the visitors, underlined by an eye-catching moment of Jonny May brilliance. He chasing down his own kick from deep in Welsh territory and then bundled Hadleigh Parkes into touch. He punched the air like he’d just dotted down under the posts – it was to prove England’s last big moment.
Wales had their share of possession but England made 41 more first half tackles to underline why they were good for their seven-point half-time advantage.
SECOND HALF SALVO
Unsurprisingly the first half pressure gauge dropped after the interval as both sides struggled to find their momentum, Anscombe reducing the deficit to a single point with back-to-back penalties.
England were suddenly desperately needing a spark, Manu Tuilagi giving them a lift with a burst from midfield before Farrell’s boot secured the visitors some breathing space.
For all the Welsh possession they had still struggled to threaten England’s line until they camped inside their rivals’ 22 midway through the second half.
The visitors steadfastly repelled increasingly frantic red shirts for an incredible 34 phases until Hill found the perfect angle to crash over, Dan Biggar threading the conversion for a three point lead. Cue bedlam.
England saved their winning score to late on their last visit to the Principality Stadium but there was to be no comeback and no glory this time.
And Wales made the game safe as Dan Biggar – so influential off the bench in the second period, sent up a cross field kick that was brilliantly gathered by Josh Adams as England full-back Daly could only flail around.
After Jonny May’s heroics against France, all eyes were on the Leicester winger again. There was one flash of brilliance late in the first half but his threat was largely negated by a brilliant second-half defensive performance by Wales.
Instead, the man of the match champagne went to Wales full-back Liam Williams who carried with verve but defused England’s kicking game throughout.
No doubt about this. Wales had barely threatened England’s line for the first 60 minutes but after more than 30 phases of being repeatedly smashed by white shirted defenders, Cory Hill rewarded their patience with a try that sent the home crowd delirious. It’ll be one they replay in these parts for years and years.
What they said
Welsh captain Alun Wyn Jones said: “We need to make sure we realise what it is and enjoy the next few hours but then it’s back on the horse tomorrow.
“We spoke in the week about people and performance. We’ve got a squad of 40 blokes and a big backroom staff that have put a lot into this. There’s still a lot of people that have got to put their hands up to keep pushing this team and the individuals we’ve got in it.
“We’d probably like to play next week to build some momentum. A week off is a dangerous thing. Scotland will be licking their wounds and looking forward to us coming up there.”
England captain Owen Farrell said: “We didn’t get any momentum towards the end of the game. We knew they’d be passionate and come after us and they did it very well. We know the areas we can be better in and we will learn from this. The Championship is certainly not over yet.”
England had the edge in terms of field position at half-time, but Wales turned that around in the second half. They finished with 65 percent possession and 68 percent territory by the end of the game. A fantastic second-half effort.
England made 99 more tackles than Wales – which tells its own story – while Wales made 714 in metres against England’s 471.
Wales had more first-half possession, carried more ball and made more metres but their superior handling errors were crucial, as England were ruthless inside the hosts’ 22.
Wales trailed 10-3 at half-time – just a score but their biggest 40 minute deficit at Principality Stadium since Ireland beat them here in 2013.
Man of the match
Welsh full-back Liam Williams had an absolute storming game. Under the aerial bombardment he coped brilliantly, his unerring display nullifying England’s kicking game.
He said: “We didn’t play well in the first two games so we’ve worked hard this week and the boys really dug deep.
“When they played France, they kicked quite a lot of ball, but as I said, we’ve been working hard this week. We’re just happy to have defused those bombs.”
Tries: Hill, Adams
Pens: Anscombe 3
Pens: Farrell 2
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Owen Watkin
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Mark Wilson, 5 George Kruis, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Brad Shields, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Joe Cokanasiga
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)