x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 February 2018

Six Nations: Jonny May's day as England wing touches down twice in tense win over Wales

Ireland count the injury cost of Italy victory while France turn to Lionel Beauxis at fly-half for match against Scotland

England’s Jonny May escapes the attention of Wales replacement George North at Twickenham. Paul Childs / Reuters
England’s Jonny May escapes the attention of Wales replacement George North at Twickenham. Paul Childs / Reuters

Jonny May scored a pair of first-half tries as reigning champions England cashed in on two moments of brilliance to beat Wales 12-6 in the Six Nations at Twickenham.

The wing opened the scoring as early as the third minute after an excellent cross-field grubber-kick by Owen Farrell and was on hand to complete a 25-phase move following a superb pass by Joe Launchbury in the 20th minute, with Owen Farrell converting on this

occasion.

Wales’s Gareth Anscombe scored the only points of the second half but his 77th-minute penalty was too little too late for the visitors.

Victory made it two wins out of two for England, bidding to become the first team to win three successive outright Six Nations titles.

Ireland crushed Italy 56-19 to make it two Six Nations wins out of two, running in eight tries to secure their first bonus point of the championship.

After Johnny Sexton’s last-gasp drop goal rescued a win in Paris a week ago, Joe Schmidt’s side could not have asked for an easier afternoon but the eight-try victory could have come at a cost through the loss of prop Tadhg Furlong and centre Robbie Henshaw to injury.

“After getting out of jail last week we were looking forward to coming home and putting on a show. We’ll be disappointed with the 19 points we conceded but that’ll kick start our campaign. It’s exactly where we want to be,” scrumhalf Conor Murray said in a pitchside interview.

Ireland, who ran in nine tries against Italy in each of their last two meetings, looked to keep ball in hand throughout and despite a couple of early handling errors, they were three tries to the good after just 20 minutes.

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Henshaw and centre partner Bundee Aki grabbed the first and third from close range following intense forward pressure while Murray got the pick in between, finishing off a slick touchline move neatly assisted by Six Nations debutant Jack Conan.

Italy, coached by former Ireland fullback Conor O’Shea, also tried to run what little ball they had but, starved of opportunity, they never came close to hurting Ireland early on.

Aki, whose earlier try was his first for his adopted nation, showed off his pace to set up the fourth as he sucked in the Italian defence to put winger Keith Earls clear to secure the extra point

The rout continued early in the second as Henshaw ran in a smart interception try but the celebrations were short-lived as he left the pitch in a sling following the grounding, joining Furlong who went off with a leg injury in the first half.

Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale added a try each before the Ulster winger sprinted through for a second late on.

Italy grabbed three consolation tries through Tomasso Allan, Edoardo Gori and Matteo Minozzi and could have had a bonus point of their own were it not for a try-saving tackle from Earls.

The Italians equalled their worst ever run in the tournament with a 14th consecutive defeat.

Meanwhile, in Sunday’s action, France have gone back to the future by ending Lionel Beauxis’s long spell in the international wilderness as they look to kick-start a revival against Scotland at Murrayfield.

Six years after collecting the most recent of his 20 caps, the 32-year-old fly-half has been recalled to replace teenager Matthieu Jalibert, who suffered a knee injury in France’s 15-13 loss to Ireland.

France coach Jacques Brunel is banking on the experience of Beauxis – particularly the Lyon playmaker’s tactical kicking in what are expected to be damp conditions – to help end the French side’s 11-month wait for a win.