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:
Wales Dealt Six Nations Double-Blow
Wales’ Six Nations title defence has been dealt a massive blow already with two stars facing surgery to fix injuries picked up on international duty
Davies, a key member of the Welsh squad for the past number of seasons sustained a knee injury during Wales’ recent Rugby World Cup campaign, and Scarlets have announced that he will undergo surgery on the injury.
The recovery time for the for the centre is set to be six months, meaning he will miss the entire Six Nations tournament in what could be a critical blow as they look to defend their title. While it also means that he could potentially miss the entire club season for Scarlets.
As for Patchell, things aren’t as severe as Davies, but the fly-half is still set to miss the start of the Six Nations with a shoulder injury, which he too will have surgery on.
He is expected to miss between 12-16 weeks due to the injury in what is a cruel blow for a player that has suffered with injury previously, but had shown some brilliant form in recent times.
It is a far from ideal start to life at the helm for new head coach Wayne Pivac as he heads into his first tournament with the team.
As well as these injuries there are also further concerns regarding the likes of stars Liam Williams and Josh Navidi, who are both currently sidelined through injury, with the former looking likely to miss some part of the Six Nations.
Wales are looking to bounce-back during the tournament following a fourth-place finish at the World Cup, with all players hoping to impress Warren Gatland’s successor.
Munster Star in Six Nations Fitness Race
Munster have confirmed that one of their key men is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines which could put his Six Nations spot in doubt
Munster fly-half Joey Carbery is set for yet another spell in the sidelines according to head coach Johann van Graan due to injury.
Van Graan confirmed that Carbery is still suffering from an ankle injury which he sustained during Ireland’s Rugby World Cup warm-up game against Italy and is not able to put a return date for his comeback due to the nature of the injury.
“He is going to be out for some time. We got to make sure he gets his strength back and we get that ankle fully functional. From Joey’s point of view, obviously, he wants to play but his body is not right. Because of the type of injury he is definitely not going to be back in the next few weeks, I can tell you that,” he said on Carbery.
The out-half was selected ahead of Leinster’s Ross Byrne in Ireland’s World Cup squad despite carrying the injury. However, it was reiterated throughout the tournament that he had fully recovered, which now appears to be untrue.
His head coach also told reporters that the 23-year-old will not undergo surgery on the injury. When asked about the possibility of Carbery playing before Christmas van Graan admitted he is hopeful but he cannot be sure right now.
“I hope so. At this stage it is very difficult for the medical team to determine that. Because he has had it for quite a while the most important thing now is Joey’s health. He is a Munster player. He is under my watch now so we have got to look after him. He is very important for the national team, I believe, for the future of Irish rugby,” he added.
It is a massive blow for the Munster player who only moved from Leinster ahead of last season, and after starting brightly in the red jersey he picked up a hamstring injury that left him out for large portions of the season.
The fear for Carbery now however is that due to the nature of the injury and the inability to place a return date, he could face a race to be fit for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign at the start of February next year. Carbery will hopefully be back in action and back to match fitness by then as he will want the chance to impress new head coach Andy Farrell during his first tournament at the helm.
Japan Could Receive Six Nations Invitation
Following their incredible performances during this year’s Rugby World Cup it appears as though hosts Japan could be set for inclusion in one of the biggest international tournaments according to reports
The report by Martin Samuel claims that the World Cup host nation, who went all the way to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history, are to “receive a shock invitation” to European rugby’s elite international competition.
It was previously thought that a move to the Rugby Championship would make more sense and that it was on the cards as the Southern Hemisphere nations were impressed by the brand of rugby that Japan played.
However, it appears as though the tournament organisers are hesitant to bring them into the championship straight away, and are looking to include them within the next four or five years. Which would see them join come the end of the next World Cup cycle and see them miss out on some valuable development time ahead of the tournament.
The report is clear that although formal talks between the Brave Blossoms and the Six Nations are yet to take place that World Rugby have been made aware that leading figures within the European organisation are very interested in the prospect.
It would be a brilliant opportunity for the Japanese as they look to expand interest in the sport within the country and are in a prime position to do so with interest at an all time high following the success of the tournament in the Land of the Rising Sun.
They have earned respect especially within Europe following wins over Six Nations side’s Scotland and Ireland during the group stages of the World Cup with Japan now sitting ahead of the former in 8th position in the World Rugby rankings due to their performances.
Japan were among several tier two nations backing the making of a Nations Championship which would have allowed the likes of Fiji and themselves compete against the best nations around on an annual basis and with these developments it will raise further questions as to why the competition isn’t being developed.
We will have to wait and see how things progress over the coming weeks and months but it seems as though Japan are in with a bigger chance than ever before in being added to one of the biggest international tournaments on the planet.
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