x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

England exact revenge over Wales and boost Six Nations title chances

Adventurous in the beginning, Stuart Lancaster's side slipped in the final quarter but still did enough to keep the Triple Crown and boost their title chances as well.

England's Luther Burrell celebrates the second try during the Six Nations match against Wales at Twickenham Stadium. Shaun Botterill / Getty Images / March 9, 2014
England's Luther Burrell celebrates the second try during the Six Nations match against Wales at Twickenham Stadium. Shaun Botterill / Getty Images / March 9, 2014

England gave themselves a great chance of winning only their second Six Nations title in 11 years when they beat double-defending champions Wales 29-18, securing their first Triple Crown since 2003 in the process.

England avenged a 30-3 thrashing in Cardiff a year ago by delivering a display full of confident running and scored first-half tries through Danny Care and Luther Burrell.

Superlative goalkicking by fullback Leigh Halfpenny, who made all six of his penalty attempts, kept Wales in touch for an hour as England’s errors threatened to undo their good work.

But the hosts, responding to a terrific Twickenham atmosphere on a sunny day, eventually took complete control through their own goalkicker, Owen Farrell, to set up a Saturday finale when the title is almost certain to be decided on points difference.

Ireland, France and England all have six points, but Ireland’s huge plus-81 point advantage means they will surely take the title if they win in Paris in the final game of the championship.

If France, who are plus-3, prevail, England, who are currently plus-32, would be well-placed to take the title should they beat Italy in Rome earlier in the day.

“We set our attacking intent from the start,” coach Stuart Lancaster told the BBC.

“We didn’t get everything right and Leigh Halfpenny punished our indiscipline, but we were deserved winners.

“We’ve got a big game next week now, we’re still in the fight and we want to be ready for Italy. They will be wanting to put on a display, so we’ll need to be ready for that. But today is our day.”

England were itching for revenge for last year’s humbling in Cardiff, though only six of their starting team from that day were in Sunday’s side.

They should have been virtually home and dry by halftime after totally dominating the opening 40 minutes.

England’s decision to play an adventurous, running game seemed to catch the Welsh out. The visitors were certainly asleep for the opening try after five minutes when Care tapped a penalty and ran in untouched.

But, in a pattern that would be repeated all half, England immediately gave away a breakdown penalty, which Halfpenny slotted over.

England continued to make all the running and when Billy Twelvetrees sent a clever kick into the corner for impressive centre Burrell to dive on, they were ahead 20-9.

Two more sloppy penalties, however, allowed Halfpenny to get his team back within five points at 20-15 at the turnaround – a situation Wales would have been delighted with, having been comprehensively outplayed.

Wales, featuring no fewer than 12 test British & Irish Lions, looked more dangerous after the break, but poor decision-making ruined their best opportunities and England cashed in with three more sweetly struck Farrell penalties.

England were less adventurous as the game went on, as Farrell introduced more tactical kicking, but their impressive defence kept the Welsh pinned deep as the champions, seeking a fourth successive win over England, tried desperately to claw back from an 11-point deficit going into the final quarter.

The comeback never came close materializing and it was England who finished the stronger, with Burrell desperately close to a second score after a length-of-the pitch move featuring off-loads and one-handed passes rarely seen from the men in white.

The teams meet again at Twickenham in the pool phase of the 2015 World Cup, when, with Australia also in their group, the result is likely to be even more important.