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:
IRFU Outline Difficult Road Ahead At Annual Council Meeting
The Annual Council Meeting of the Irish Football Rugby Union has been advised that despite ongoing work across the professional and domestic game to ensure the continuing safe participation in rugby, the IRFU is still at significant financial risk due to the persisting impact of COVID 19.
Patrick Kennedy, Honorary Treasurer, told delegates at the on-line meeting that despite many positive developments such as the ongoing vaccination rollout, successful pilot test events and the gradual relaxation of government restrictions, that rugby is “far from out of the woods”.
Kennedy outlined that without the assistance and commitment of government, sponsors, broadcasters, and patrons the IRFU would not have survived as it has, and that continued support remains vital.
Advising that the IRFU’s financial year end would move permanently to 31 July, to ensure alignment with the new global season, Kennedy confirmed that a full financial update will be issued from the Union in November following the presentation of the audited accounts for 2020/21 to the meeting of the IRFU Council at that time.
At the meeting it was confirmed that current President, Des Kavanagh, Senior Vice President, John Robinson and Junior Vice President, Greg Barrett, will remain in their respective roles for the forthcoming season, due to the impact COVID 19 had on their terms in office last season.
On the day that Munster’s Fiona Steed and Connacht’s Yvonne Comer (pictured) were appointed to the Union Committee, delegates were reminded that, following approval of governance changes at a special EGM in June, from 2023 a minimum of one in four nominees to the IRFU Committee from each Province must be female.
IRFU Thank Government For Support
Speaking of the challenging environment Philip Browne, CEO, told irishrugby.ie,
“Irish Rugby is continuing to grapple with the most significant financial crisis in our history and we are expecting to report another year of losses in 2021, when our audited accounts are released later this year.”
The key issue remains the absence of fans at provincial grounds and the Aviva Stadium. The IRFU continues to address this particularly through its active participation in the cross-sport working party on return of fans to stadia. “We have made encouraging progress in recent weeks with the return of increasing numbers of supporters to various sporting and cultural events, which leaves us hopeful that fans may return in meaningful numbers to our grounds in Autumn. I would like to thank the government, in particular Minister Chambers and his department officials for their commitment to facilitating the safe progressive return of fans to stadia.
“As the only sporting organisation fully supporting a professional game, we are dependent on the national and provincial teams’ ability to generate revenues which have been decimated by the impact of COVID restrictions since March 2020.” Browne added.
Looking back at his most challenging season at the helm of Irish Rugby, Browne reiterated that the IRFU had to implement a 10% permanent cost base reduction, approved by the Union in March of this year and with that came some difficult decisions, despite a critically important grant of €18m from government in respect of loss of revenues in 2020.
“As in many industries, regrettably we have had job losses and pay cuts across the organisation for the last 12 months while we also eliminated all non-critical overheads.”
Looking at forward financial projections Browne outlined ‘We understand that Sport Ireland and the Department are discussing, with government, proposals for additional emergency funding for sport. We made a submission to Minister Chambers setting out expected further significant cash income losses for the IRFU and Provinces in 2021 arising from COVID 19 restrictions.
The meeting heard that the bulk of the 2021 losses are already realised as the 2020/21 season has now concluded and the IRFU, alone, has suffered a 47% reduction in turnover for the six months to the end of June 2021, compared to the first half of 2019.
Browne explained, “Our two largest income-generating home games every two years against England and France were held behind closed doors with a loss of match income of over €16m. These are the games that keep Irish Rugby going.”
The challenges for rugby are clear and without the assistance of the government’s EWSS employment supports, which the IRFU and Provinces continue to receive, and the PAYE debt warehousing scheme, Browne said that the IRFU would now be facing a more bleak situation.
“The schemes available from the government are vitally important to on-going operations, but these result in accumulated debt of c. €30m in PAYE to date, this will eventually have to be paid.
“Without additional government funding in 2021, and a return of fans to our stadia in meaningful numbers later this year, the IRFU would once again have to review all activities and swiftly implement another round of very unpalatable cost reductions. Further cuts, if necessary, would have a significant impact on the organisation and all activities from grassroots to pro game pathways.”
Searching for a positive in the current environment Brown said “The importance of pathways and programmes is always at the forefront of our minds and is perfectly demonstrated by the huge success of our men’s sevens team qualifying for the Olympics, for the first time.
“We also managed to host all of our International match fixtures and all, but one, Provincial game in Ireland, albeit behind closed doors. We also continued supporting the severely restricted levels of club activities. This was done safely thanks to the development, implementation, and compliance across Irish Rugby of robust COVID 19 protocols.
“I would like to thank our committee and playing and non-playing staff for their commitment, and of course the volunteers across our clubs for doing their very best to ensure that Irish Rugby continued to function and emerge from this crisis.
“It is important we acknowledge these achievements, given the disruption and challenges we have all experienced this year. As is always the case, success on the pitch can give the whole nation a lift including this week’s historic first involvement of an Ireland Sevens team at the Olympic Games.”
Source – Irish Rugby
World Rugby applies 50/22 law trial globally, bolster concussion protocol
World Rugby announced on Wednesday five law trials which will start next month, including a so-called “50/22” kicking adaptation.
The 50/22 change allows a team to gain a throw-in inside the opposition’s 22-metre area by kicking the ball to touch with at least one bounce from their own half.
The rule was used in recent Super Rugby tournaments and its primary intention is to “encourage the defensive team to put more players in the backfield, thereby creating more attacking space and reducing defensive line speed”, according to the sport’s governing body.
The other laws to come into force on a temporary basis from August 1 include a goal-line drop-out if the ball is held up in the in-goal area, if there is a knock-on from an attacking player in the same area or an attacking kick is grounded by the defenders in their own in-goal.
There are also restrictions on attacking players latching onto team-mates from a ruck and clean-outs which target or drop weight onto the lower limbs at the breakdown.
The final trial allows for a one-player latch before contact, but the individual must “observe all of the requirements for a first arriving player, particularly the need to stay on their feet”.
World Rugby has also moved to strengthen concussion protocols, with independent specialists set to review cases when Test players return to action after a head injury.
They will launch a panel of Independent Concussion Consultants (ICCs) to provide expert opinion on whether players are ready to return to action after head knocks.
The global governing body will fully fund the process for Test-level competitions, with ICCs asked to rule when players look to return to action 10 days or fewer after a concussion or on players deemed higher risk due to previous head-injury history.
England name 8 new caps for USA clash
Eddie Jones has named his England team for this weekend’s Test match against USA.
Eight uncapped players are set to make their debuts at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday 4 July (2pm KO).
Lewis Ludlow will captain the side at blind-side flanker, with Sam Underhill at open-side flanker and Callum Chick at No.8.
Ellis Genge (loose-head prop) will be vice-captain and is joined by Curtis Langdon (hooker) and Joe Heyes (tight-head prop) in the front row.
Locks Josh McNally and Charlie Ewels complete the tight five.
Henry Slade, the most-capped player in the squad, will be at outside centre with Ollie Lawrence at inside centre. Marcus Smith will start at fly half and Harry Randall is at scrum half.
Freddie Steward is at full back, while Max Malins (left) and Joe Cokanasiga (right) are on the wings in attack.
Among the finishers there are four further uncapped players who could make their first appearance for England – Jamie Blamire, Trevor Davison, Ben Curry and Jacob Umaga. Beno Obano, Ted Hill, Lewis Ludlam and Dan Robson are also named as finishers.
Jones said: “Over the past three weeks our biggest message to the players is what an opportunity this is to show what they can do and make their mark with England.
“They’ve applied themselves as a group and worked very hard individually during this camp to reach their personal bests.
“Now it’s all about coming together as a team, gelling and putting in a good performance at the weekend.”
England v USA is live on Channel 4, with coverage starting from 1.30pm.
England XV Starters
15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
14. Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 9 caps)
13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 38 caps)
12. Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors, 6 caps)
11. Max Malins (Saracens, 7 caps)
10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, uncapped)
9. Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, uncapped)
1. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 28 caps)
2. Curtis Langdon (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
3. Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
4. Josh McNally (Bath Rugby, uncapped)
5. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 21 caps)
6. Lewis Ludlow (C) (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped)
7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 22 caps)
8. Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)
16. Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)
17. Beno Obano (Bath Rugby, 1 cap)
18. Trevor Davison (Newcastle Falcons, uncapped)
19. Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors, 1 cap)
20. Ben Curry (Sale Sharks, uncapped)
21. Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 8 caps)
22. Dan Robson (Wasps, 12 caps)
23. Jacob Umaga (Wasps, uncapped)
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