Warren Gatland’s side produced a dogged second-half display to turn around a 10-3 deficit at the interval, and run out 21-13 winners.
Tom Curry’s first international try had given England the advantage at the break.
But despite spells of English pressure, Wales’ defence stood firm, and with 13 minutes they got their reward; second row Cory Hill powered his way over the line after strong work from the Welsh pack.
The Principality Stadium was then sent into pandemonium with just over two minutes left on the clock.
Replacement fly-half Dan Biggar kicked cross-field, and winger Josh Adams climbed above Elliot Daly to claim the ball and bundle over in the corner.
Wales are now in pole position to win the championship, and have the chance to secure their first Grand Slam since 2012.
How it happened
The game started in true ‘Wales vs England’ fashion – Kyle Sinckler’s thumping tackles to the soundtrack of 74,000 bellowing rugby fans typified the rivalry between these two international giants.
Both sides conceded penalties during a bruising first 20 minutes, with Gareth Anscombe and Owen Farrell slotting from the tee.
Neither team was able to gain the upper hand as the early stages were dominated by poor kicking and chasing.
But it was flanker Curry who eventually penetrated the stubborn Welsh defence. The Sale Shark’s man exploited a gap at the fringes of a ruck with a pick and go and touched down for the games first try.
Welsh fans will blame Justin Tipuric’s off-the-ball altercation with England scrum-half Ben Youngs for the gaping hole in their defence.
In fairness, it was an uncharacteristic lapse in an almost flawless defensive display from Wales.
There were few defining moments in the 13 minutes that followed. England were evidently growing in confidence, but came away with nothing to show for a strong finish to the half.
England didn’t begin the second half with the same swagger, and as a result the game continued to unfold in the same gritty style.
Head coach Eddie Jones was left frustrated as England conceded two penalties in 5 minutes, which were duly converted by Anscombe, reducing the deficit to one point.
The confidence then seemed to drain from England’s players, but Farrell extended their narrow lead yet again following a trademark carry from centre Manu Tuilagi.
It Wales though who were in the ascendancy. They were dominating possession, and Biggar was beginning to pull the strings from the number ten position following his introduction.
England were resilient though, and it took a colossal 34 phases for the Welsh to break that resilience. Hill eventually found a gap and crashed over the line to send the Welsh support into raptures.
Biggar’s conversion dissected the posts to leave the score 16-13 with just over 10 minutes to go.
There was little suggestion England would repeat the late heroics of their last visit to Wales, and their fate was all but sealed when Adams gathered Biggar’s kick to score in the corner with minutes to go.
Wales now have the opportunity to secure the championship and a first Grand Slam in seven years. Victory over Scotland at Murrayfield would offer Wales the chance to seal the Grand Slam in front of their own fans in three weeks’ time.
Meanwhile England host an Italy side who have been no walkover so far, followed by Scotland at Twickenham on the sixth and final matchday.
How they rated
Liam Williams (Full-back) – 9
A constant threat with his strong running, and was almost flawless under the high ball despite a first-half bombardment. Was reliable defensively too.
George North (Winger) – 7
To England’s credit he was kept relatively quiet, aside from the odd 10m burst that got the Welsh fans on their feet. Made no notable errors.
Jonathan Davies (Centre) – 7.5
Davies was as solid as ever in defence, and was a nuisance at the breakdown too. Showed his experience as Wales took control in a nervy second-half.
Hadleigh Parkes (Centre) – 8
Another robust Welsh centre who stepped up to the physical test of Manu Tuilagi. Made more metres than anyone else on the pitch (79).
Josh Adams (Winger) – 7.5
Struggled to get involved in a game that was dominated by the big men up front as his side kept things narrow. His leap above Daly was however a crowning moment on brilliant day for Welsh rugby, and he did well to finish it off.
Gareth Anscombe (Fly-half) – 6.5
Attempted a number of kicks in the first half that came to very little. Improved in the second half, but was withdrawn for Biggar after an hour who outshone him.
Gareth Davies (Scrum-half) – 7
Was surprisingly effective in defensive with his pressure on Farrell, but made a few errors with the ball in hand that have littered his appearances this championship.
Rob Evans (Prop) – 7.5
Hit double figures in terms of tackles (10) and was effective at the ruck. No surprise he was subbed after a lung-busting hour.
Ken Owens (Hooker) – 8
Another experienced Welsh player who stepped up to the occasion, tackling everything that moved. Was pretty secure with his lineout throws as well
Tomas Francis (Prop) – 7
Was effective in the scrums, particularly towards the end of the first half. Solid in defence.
Alun Wyn Jones (Second-row) – 9
Yet another majestic performance from the captain, lead his side into battle and was rampant throughout the 80 minutes.
Cory Hill (Second-row) – 8
Proved to be the key to unlocking England’s defence. Another industrious display.
Josh Navidi (Flanker) – 8
Will be frustrated by some of his handling errors but put his body on the line for his country countless times.
Justin Tipuric (Flanker) – 8
A nice attempt to perform one of the dark arts of back-rowing by holding Youngs on the ground, but was punished by opposite number Curry. Was dominant in the lineout, and was all action in open play.
Ross Moriarty (Number eight) – 8
Took on the imposing figure of Billy Vunipola and came out on top, which very few can say they have done. Made 35m from his home at the base of the scrum.
Elliot Dee (for Owens 77) N/A
Nicky Smith (for Evans 61) 6.5
Continued the work that was started by Evans.
Dillon Lewis (for Francis 61) 7
A busy cameo from the prop.
Adam Beard (for Hill 71) N/A
Aaron Wainwright (for Moriarty 77) N/A
Aled Davies (for Gareth Davies 77) N/A
Dan Biggar (for Anscombe 61) 8
Was much more dynamic than Anscombe and was arguably the difference. Will surely start against Scotland.
Owen Watkin (for Parkes 79) N/A
Elliot Daly (Full-back) – 5.5
Missed a penalty in the early stages. Struggled to make any yards when gathering Wales kicks, and was beaten by Adams in the air to cap a disappointing display.
Jack Nowell (Winger) – 6.5
Made yards whenever the ball eventually reached him, but Wales’ defence meant he was unable to produce anything spectacular.
Henry Slade (Centre) – 7
Wasn’t as influential as in the first two games, but made more metres that any other England player (63) thanks to his pace.
Manu Tuilagi (Centre) – 7
Still doesn’t look at his very, very best, but carried well as the game went on and made a cracking tackle on Parkes.
Jonny May (Winger) – 6
Was kept very quiet, and had little influence on the game. Had to leave the field with a head injury.
Owen Farrell (Fly-half) – 6
He started poorly compared to his own high standards, but was able to offer England hope with his kicking from hand and the tee.
Ben Youngs (Scrum-half) – 6
Box-kicks were decent, didn’t make too many errors but was unable to help his team unlock a sturdy Welsh defence.
Ben Moon (Prop) – 6
Grafted for 76 minutes, and did his best to keep Wales at bay. Battled well against Exeter team made Francis in the scrum.
Jamie George (Hooker) – 7.5
Has been a fantastic replacement for Dylan Hartley and was very effective again against Wales. One of England’s best performers.
Kyle Sinckler (Prop) – 7
Started the game terrifically, making some thunderous tackles and carries. Struggled to maintain his discipline after half time and was subbed off following a risky choke tackle.
Courtney Lawes (Second-row) – 7.5
A typically physical display from the big lock and set up Curry’s try with a brilliant steal in the lineout. England will hope the injury isn’t too serious.
George Kruis (Second-row) – 7.5
Made 17 tackles in just over an hour, hit some good lines, and was a nuisance in the lineout. Another England player who can hold his head up high in defeat.
Mark Wilson (Flanker) – 7
Making the blindside position his own with consistent performances. Has another level to reach though if he wants to come out on top of back rows as good as Wales’.
Tom Curry (Flanker) – 7.5
Worked hard, and looks like he will be a fantastic player for England over the coming years. Showed intelligence and took responsibility for his try.
Billy Vunipola (Number eight) – 6
Not his best day both with and without the ball. Will be disappointed to have been overshadowed by Moriarty. Perhaps still finding his best form after a long injury layoff.
Ellis Genge (for Moon 77) N/A
Harry Williams (for Sinckler 58) 7
Picked up where Sinckler left off with his tackling.,
Joe Launchbury (for Kruis 64) 6
Not massively involved, not as good as Kruis.
Brad Shields (for Lawes 75) N/A
Joe Cokanasiga (for May 70) 5.5 Offered the same as May did to the game unfortunately; nothing
Full Match Highlights below:
Official. Eddie Jones signs new England Deal.
England men’s head coach Eddie Jones and the RFU have agreed a contract extension which will see him continue his role until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Jones joined England Rugby at the end of 2015 and has coached the men’s national side on 54 occasions winning 42, drawing one and losing 11 – giving him a win ratio of 78%, the highest in the history of England coaches.
Under Jones, England has won two Six Nations titles including a Grand Slam in 2016, a 3-0 away Test series win against Australia in the same year, an unbeaten run of 18 matches equalling New Zealand’s record and were finalists at last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Jones said: “The extension is a great honour for me, but in the current environment, it is only right to acknowledge what a difficult time the world is facing. We are all looking forward to a time when we can get back to playing rugby and use the sport as a force for good in bringing people back together. I never thought coming here four years ago I would be doing a second four years but the circumstances are right. Obviously it is important for the team that we keep improving and my focus will be solely on that.
“I am excited about raising the standards again. We have a great team. We set out four years ago to be the best team in the world and unfortunately we missed that by 80 minutes. Now we want to be the team that is remembered as being the greatest team the game has ever seen. It’s a big ambition but I believe we are capable of doing it. We have players with an enhanced reputation, we have a team that is expected to do well, so it’s a great opportunity for us to keep moving forward.”
Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO said: “My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU are with everyone impacted by COVID-19, both across the country at large but also within our own rugby union community. In exceptionally difficult times, we are pleased to be sharing some good news. We are delighted that Eddie will continue as head coach to run England’s campaign to take us to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. His record since joining speaks for itself and he has proven why he is one of the best coaches in world rugby. The progress shown by England since 2015 has been indisputable and having fielded the youngest-ever team to play in a World Cup final, we know even more growth is possible. We are all excited by what this squad can do and having Eddie leading the team is very important to us.
“We reached an understanding soon after returning from Japan but there were some things that we wanted to make sure worked for both sides. We have announced Eddie’s contract extension a few weeks later than planned as our focus was diverted to support the English rugby community during this difficult time, we are now turning our attention to developing plans to support the rebooting of rugby and a winning England team will provide a vital role in that.”
Ahead of the Guinness Six Nations Jones confirmed Simon Amor and Matt Proudfoot would join Steve Borthwick and John Mitchell as his assistant coaches. Jason Ryles will join later in the year as skills coach following Borthwick’s departure towards the end of the season.
RFU CEO gives COVID-19 planning & support update
Bill Sweeney – RFU, CEO
My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU continue to be with everyone impacted by the difficult and exceptional situation we are all facing, both across the country and within our own rugby union community.
Earlier today we held a virtual board meeting and I am writing to advise you of the actions that have been agreed to offer a support package directly funded from the RFU worth £7m to provide support for community clubs in England.
To support clubs we are today announcing that the RFU will be providing a £7m relief package for community clubs. The package includes monies ring fenced and diverted for the community game as well as additional funding. These measures include:
• An early release of £800,000 cash due to clubs through the ticketing fund.
• Early release of final funding payments (£600,000) to Constituent Bodies and suspension of the activity plans against which this was allocated, enabling them to utilise this to provide “immediate support grants” to clubs most in need. In addition £400,000 will be made available to Constituent Bodies who elect to match fund from their own reserves.
• A suspension of the Quarterly loan repayments for clubs with outstanding loans due in March (£335,000).
• The creation of a £5m support loans programme, offering loans of between circa £2k and circa £10k to clubs, with deferred re-payments for six months and repayable over three years.
We will be providing more details on this financial package in the coming week. We will also be issuing regular club recovery updates with practical advice on how government grants can be accessed as well as other business management advice.
We welcome government interventions which will provide business rate holidays and grants for clubs.
The RFU will continue to provide a free helpline to assist clubs with legal and tax related matters: https://www.englandrugby.com/participation/running-your-club/legal-and-administration
Significant progress has been made on the process for considering the implications of ending the season early. We will ensure a fair and balanced outcome for the game and are now committed to update on this by the middle of April.
No one can predict every possible outcome of the COVID-19 outbreak particularly with regard to the duration of this crisis and we are managing in the unknown. We have modelled three potential scenarios and are working on an assumption based on a medium term impact with a view to a return to rugby in the autumn. We will continue to monitor against this assumption and review and revise planning where necessary.
The RFU had budgeted for a loss making year within a four year cycle due to the costs of the 2019 RWC campaign and hosting only two home Six Nations games. The loss will now be considerably more as we face challenges similar to businesses across the country.
The RFU’s biggest asset is also a major cost and the closure of Twickenham Stadium has a significant impact on the revenues we can generate to re-invest back into the game. In that sense we are like every other club in the Union, when we do not stage matches and events we do not generate revenue.
Based on our planning assumption we estimate RFU revenue losses over the next 18 months to be approximately £45-£50 million and have a firm plan in place to mitigate this. The RFU Executive Team will be taking a cut in remuneration in excess of 25%. In addition, combined Board fees will be reduced by 75%.
We are continuing our support to ensure colleagues and communities are given help to follow government advice and are providing recommendations on how to stay fit and healthy and a range of new content will be made available to players and fans across our social media channels.
We are discussing with government and the NHS the role the RFU and Twickenham Stadium can play in providing volunteers as well as support for the NHS including accommodation, parking and meal provisioning.
I am confident that rugby will play a big role in energising communities across England after this difficult period. In the meantime, we are working hard with the wider rugby community to take the necessary measures to safeguard a financially resilient Union so that we can.
Rodney Parade to help in fight against coronavirus
Rodney Parade has become the latest sporting venue to open its doors to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
The Newport stadium has been provided free of charge as a base for front-line NHS staff to check if they have the virus and are able to continue working. At this stage only NHS staff are eligible to be tested at Rodney Parade to see if they have COVID-19. Dragons managing director Mark Jones said: “The health service and care workers are doing an incredible job in such difficult circumstances so we are happy to offer our help and support in any way we can.
“Playing our part in the local community is at the heart of what we’re about at the Dragons and in times of crisis people stick together. We would urge everyone to follow the latest NHS advice on protecting themselves from the virus, particularly to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel.”
A statement from Aneurin Bevan Health Board read: “The health and wellbeing of our staff is essential for delivering services for the people of Gwent. It is fundamental during this time when the most vulnerable people need us most.
“We have set up a drive-through facility to test staff for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and help us get our teams back in to work on the front line. The testing site is located at Rodney Parade in Newport and we ask that everyone practises the stay-at-home guidance and does not visit the site.
“Everyone at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board would like to thank the team at Rodney Parade for their community-focused approach and accommodating us during these difficult times.”