England survived a late fightback from Wales to claim the Triple crown after a 25-21 win at Twickenham
Anthony Watson’s try combined with 11 points from Owen Farrell put England 16-0 ahead at the break
Dan Biggar charged down George Ford’s clearance to give the Welsh a lifeline
Farrell kicked further penalties in the second-half to extend England’s lead
George North and Taulupe Faletau set up a grandstand finish but England held on
England took a giant step towards claiming their first Grand Slam since 2003 with a 25-21 victory over Wales following a nail-biting finish at Twickenham.
The hosts led 25-7 with 10 minutes remaining before tighthead prop Dan Cole was shown a yellow card for repeated team infringements.
The extra man nearly aided a shock win for the visitors as George North and Taulupe Faletau crossed to set up a breathtaking finish.
The visitors were back on attack in the England half with less than a minute remaining before North was tackled into touch as Eddie Jones’ men claimed the lineout and the win.
The result means that England have won the triple crown and are the only remaining team in the Six Nations who are unbeaten and remain on track for the title and a possible Grand Slam. All they have to is win their one match remaining next week when they play France in Paris.
The opening 40 minutes was the best of the Eddie Jones regime by far and started with Owen Farrell, who was once again deployed in the centre, slotting three penalties in the opening half an hour to put England in the driving seat, 9-0.
The men in white then eventually got the try their dominance warranted after 33 minutes. RUCK man of the match Maro Itoje, who continues to carry the future of English rugby on his back, burst through the Wales defence before feeding Mike Brown, who sent it off to speedster Watson to score in the left corner.
Farrell continued his exception day from the tee to give England a 16-0 lead, which they held heading into half-time.
Warren Gatland’s side needed to get a foothold in the game but instead, they found themselves even further behind when Farrell knocked over his fourth three-pointer of the match after 44 minutes, 19-0.
The visitors, who had been threatening, then got a try out of nothing to get back into the match after Dan Biggar charged down George Ford’s poor clearance before gathering to under the posts after 53 minutes. The fly-half then added the extras to reduce the deficit to 11-points.
Wales though had Sam Warburton stretchered off to huge applause soon after, which somewhat halted the men in reds momentum.
The hosts then regained the initiative as Manu Tuilagi emerged from the bench to win a penalty with seemingly his first touch. Farrell then maintained his nerveless kicking display by knocking over his fifth three-pointer of the contest before adding a sixth soon after to give England a 25-7 lead with 67 minutes played.
Several penalties conceded in dangerous positions eventually saw England reduced to 14 men with eight minutes to go as Dan Cole was deemed responsible for dragging down the Welsh maul.
Wales, with the man advantage, then went on the attack. They took the ball from the scrum and played it wide from right to left. Williams made a great line through the English centres before offloading to Jonathan Davies, who then flings it wide to North, who galloped over for the try after 75 minutes. New-boy Priestland, on for Biggar then slotted the kick, 25-14.
Twickenham was then silenced as Faletau busted his way over two minutes later. Priestland then sunk the conversion to close the gap to just four points.
MAN OF THE MATCH
England: Maro Itoje
Itoje, who Eddie Jones compared to a Vauxhall Viva a few weeks ago, – put in a Rolls-Royce of a display. This was only the lock’s second start, but he messed up the Welsh line-out, won turnovers and smashed through tackles to set up his side’s opening try.
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Anthony Watson, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Jack Clifford, 21 Danny Care, 22 Manu Tuilagi, 23 Elliot Daly
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Gareth Anscombe
Date: Saturday, March 12
Kick-off: 16:00 GMT
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Mathieu Raynal (France)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)