A resounding comeback from Wales helped them secure a 28-25 win over Rugby World Cup hosts England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Gareth Davies’ spectacular try for Wales with ten minutes to go flipped the contest on its head after they had trailed for over 40 minutes.
A kicking contest under high pressure was always expected and the two fly-halves duly obliged, Dan Biggar responding to the challenge with seven penalties, the last of which from the half-way line sealed a dramatic turnaround. Worries about Leigh Halfpenny’s absence proved unfounded.
Even losing both Scott and Liam Williams to serious injuries in the second half couldn’t stop a resounding turnaround.
England’s return to old-fashioned power was backed up by a dominant scrum, which won the favour of referee Jérôme Garcès early on and never let it go, but they squandered crucial territory.
A call to kick for the corner with few minutes left rather than attempt to tie the scores off the tee spectacularly backfired.
Jonny May’s finish in the corner exploited poor Welsh defence and on a night where line breaks were at a premium, let alone tries, it looked for a long time to be the difference.
This felt more like a knockout game than a group clash, with both sides fully aware of how hard the road ahead would be should they suffer a defeat, with a massive clash against Australia to come. England now have to face that nightmare situation head on.
Twickenham may have no longer held any fear for Wales but they hadn’t held a half-time lead here since 1980 with that run continuing.
Biggar struck first after Tom Youngs failed to roll away, the only points in a cagey opening ten minutes were England won the first battle at the scrum, but were penalised at the breakdown.
More scrum dominance allowed Farrell to equalise before Biggar’s nervous drop goal attempt drifted wide, although it mattered little after converting his second penalty as England were once again caught out at the ruck.
Twickenham might have produced a chorus of boos for Biggar’s attempt but they seemed to mind less when Farrell made good with a low drop goal effort, after England’s attack had lost its shape, making it 6-6.
Wales scrum though was becoming a hinderance, going from a concern to a major problem with a third straight penalty, this time converted by Farrell to put England ahead for the first time.
Finally it opened up from England’s lineout, a long loop from Watson giving the hosts an extra man and although his pass bobbled into the path of Mike Brown, England did well to recycle with Ben Youngs releasing May down the blindside to score.
With Farrell’s conversion, England suddenly led by ten points. Falling short in the set-piece and England’s defence, which pushed the limit of offside, kept Wales relatively contained.
Biggar though had the say before the break, adding a third penalty to make it 16-9 at half-time after Scott Williams reminded Sam Burgess who he was with an outstanding burst of speed.
A wobble from Biggar trying to control Farrell’s tactical kick set England up for another attack right at the start of the second half, ending in a third penalty for Farrell, but not the first time England coughed up a penalty for not rolling away allowing Biggar to close the gap at 19-12.
Continuing the tempo of the half Farrell and Biggar traded penalties once more, keeping Wales within reach, before a sixth Biggar penalty and tackle-busting run from North suddenly kicked them into life to the sound of Hymns and Arias.
England’s four-point lead was under threat but Wales’ horrendous injury luck hit them hard again, first with the loss of Scott Williams on a stretcher quickly followed by his namesake Liam.
Every scrum continued to go England’s way as Farrell converted a fifth penalty, stretching the home side’s advantage to 25-18 with ten minutes to go.
Wales though had other ideas, spreading the ball wide to makeshift winger Lloyd Williams whose brilliant kick infield was first met by Gareth Davies to score under the posts as the majority of Twickenham fell silent.
England though had time, but rather than attempt a kickable penalty out wide in the Welsh 22 they went for the jugular and missed – a killer blow as Wales clung on.
Gatland’s side raided raided Twickenham and kept their composure when it mattered, showing unbelievable character.
Pens: Farrell 5
Drop Goal: Farrell
Tries: G Davies
Pens: Biggar 6
- England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Sam Burgess, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Geoff Parling, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 James Haskell, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 George Ford, 23 Alex Goode
- Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Gethin Jenkins
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Alex Cuthbert
- Date: Saturday, September 26
- Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
- Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
- Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Mathieu Raynal (France)
- TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
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