Wales were battered and bruised but played like men possessed as they took one massive step towards a place in the quarter-finals with a box office triumph against England at Twickenham on the most pulsating evening of the Rugby World Cup so far. Warren Gatland’s men may have been without many of their central stars, but a brave and bold display, inspired by their fly-half Dan Biggar, give them a massive victory at the home of their oldest rivals
England were controlled, confident and determined in the first half but found their performance after the break far too lackluster as they fell to a narrow defeat. Stuart Lancaster’s men now take on Australia in what is a must-win clash next Saturday, which again will be under the lights of the South-West London stadium.
Their immediate start was again nervy, but England grew into the game and would hold a 16-9 lead at the break with wing-wizard Jonny May running in the only try of the half. Fly-half Owen Farrell made up the rest of the total, kicking two penalties and an incredible drop-goal while Biggar scored all nine of the Welsh points from the tee.
After the break Wales forced their way back into the game and were the better side but indiscipline broke up the rhythm of the rugby and cost both sides points as Farrell and his opposite number Biggar slotted three penalties each, 25-18.
But Warren Gatland’s side got level when Lloyd Williams kick from the wing bobbled through Gareth Davies, who collected before sliding under the posts. A conversion and an amazing penalty from the half-way line by Biggar then give the Welsh a slender lead going into the final stages of the game.
In the end, England had their backs to the wall for long periods in the second half, and it cost them. They had a chance to draw the game but went to the corner in search of a winning score but the risk proved fruitless, and they came away with nothing.
Wales number 10 Biggar kept his nerve to get his side off to the best possible start with a simple penalty after just two minutes.
Ten minutes later Farrell superbly kicked a penalty of his own, which was only 5m or so inside the Wales half to level things up.
But Biggar after 15 minutes restored Wales narrow lead from the tee, 3-6.
However, Farrell, who started the game with a real confidence, two minutes later kicked a drop-goal from 35m out to immediately wipe out Wales lead before adding another three points from in front of the posts to put England in front for the first time.
England wing Jonny May then got the hosts chariot in full motion with the opening try of the game after 26 minutes. A quick line-out was eventually recycled into the hands of scrum-half Ben Youngs, who put May over in the corner for the score. And Farrell from just outside the 22 added the extras, 16-6.
Biggar reduced the Welsh deficit to seven points with another penalty from in front of the posts on the cusp of half-time as England held a 16-9 lead at the break.
Farrell got England off to the perfect start in the second half with another routine three points from the tee, stretching the hosts lead to 10 points.
Biggar brought Wales back within touching distance after 47 minutes, but it was only briefly as the England number 10 responded with a penalty of his own almost instantly.
However, the Wales number 10 would kick two quick-fire penalty’s too close the gap to five points, 22-18.
But just as the visitors looked as if they were edging closer to England Farrell again stepped up to extend the gap from the tee, 25-18
However, after 72 minutes the visitors were level when Lloyd Williams put in a perfect kick in-field for Gareth Davies to pick up, and the scrum-half slid over the line under the posts to give Biggar the easiest of conversions, 25-25.
The Wales number 10 with five minutes until full-time then slotted a penalty from 5m short of the half-way line to give Wales, out of nowhere, a slender lead.
England came back hard and were awarded a penalty with three minutes remaining, and could have gone for the goal in what was a tough opportunity.
However, Captain Chris Robshaw surprisingly opted for the lineout, which in the end came to nothing as Wales hung on to record a famous win.
What is next:
Wales will look to to move even closer to the quarter-finals with another win against Fiji next Thursday while Stuart Lancaster’s men next take on the Wallabies next Saturday in what is a now a do or die match.
Man of the Match: Dan Biggar
The fly half was quite simply magnificent. With eight goals from eight, his points haul was crucial, but his overall performance was nothing short of brilliant – when the chips were down for the visitors, he stood up and guided his battered and bruised team mates over the line. The undoubted Man of the Match.
England: England: Mike Brown; Anthony Watson, Brad Barritt, Sam Burgess, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Rob Webber, Mako Vunipola, Kieran Brookes, Joe Launchbury, James Haskell, Richard Wigglesworth, George Ford, Alex Goode.
Wales: Liam Williams; George North, Scott Williams, Jamie Roberts, Hallam Amos; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Gethin Jenkins, Scott Baldwin, Tomas Francis, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (capt), Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Ken Owens, Aaron Jarvis, Samson Lee, Luke Charteris, Justin Tipuric, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Priestland, Alex Cuthbert.