February 26, 2024

Six Nations 2024: England 16-14 Wales – hosts battle back to victory

England: (5) 16
Trying: Earl, Dingwall Pen: Ford 2
Wales: (14) 14
Trying: Penalty, Mann downside: Lloyd

England overturned another half-time deficit in the Six Nations, getting past a youthful and energetic Welsh team at Twickenham.

As in Rome a week ago, England trailed at half-time when Wales claimed a penalty try and an Alex Mann score, threatening a first win at Twickenham since 2015.

Fraser Dingwall scored in the corner to pull England to within a point before George Ford’s penalty sealed the victory.

Ford made up for his failure to convert Ben Earl’s try in the first half.

The England fly-half was denied the chance to equalize when it was adjudged to have started his conversion attempt, despite failing to stride for the ball as Wales rushed over to thwart him.

The win moves England top of the Six Nations table after maintaining their winning start to the tournament, while Wales claim a losing bonus point to remain fifth despite two opening defeats.

England’s resilience prevails while the attack falters

England were back at home at Twickenham, planning to put on a show for the first time since their World Cup warm-up defeat to Fiji last summer.

Jamie George had promised a greater effort in attack in his first home game as captain, and his side were true to their word in the opening stages as they started brightly.

Freddie Steward broke the line with a surging run in the opening minute and Ford’s wide kick gave them territory as Rio Dyer brought the ball out.

But while the ambition was clearly visible, the final pass seemed to elude them.

Wales, on the other hand, had limited possession but scored from their first visit to the England 22 when they were awarded a penalty for continued English fouls, sending Ethan Roots to the sin bin.

Ben Earl switched from the base of the scrum before controversy arose over Ford’s conversion attempt. England’s number 10 was not still in their line-up and it led to Wales closing him down and keeping their noses in front.

Tommy Reffell was a bright spark for the visitors and his cutting line opened up an England defense still trying to adapt to their new blitz defense as Mann set up their second try for a first half-time lead at Twickenham since 1980.

England were much better after the break but continued to struggle with their advantage in attack. The breakthrough came after a strike from the usually confident Josh Adams deep in Welsh territory.

The hosts and their partisan crowd could smell blood and after the attackers smashed into the red wall, the ball was moved wide for Dingwall to cross into the corner for his first Test try.

Ford’s late penalty completed the comeback as England had the upper hand despite another stuttering attacking display.

Wales are showing signs of progress, but the wait for victory at Twickenham continues

Head coach Warren Gatland tried to reduce Twickenham’s fear factor for Wales ahead of their short trip east, saying he “loved” visiting the home of English rugby.

Wales had not won in their previous seven away games against their biggest rivals, so perhaps his words were intended to ease the pressure on his young side, led by 21-year-old captain Dafydd Jenkins.

It seemed to work early on as, despite the predicted English attack, Wales stood firm and defended with more determination than in last week’s capitulation to Scotland.

Very little could be done to keep out the rampaging Earl from close range, but they largely kept England at bay in the opening forty minutes.

It was much the same after the break, as Wales offered little in an attack led by rookie fly-half Ioan Lloyd on his fourth cap, while in defense they managed to contain England’s blunt attack.

When Steve Borthwick’s men decided to revert to type and go aerial as the play got away, Adams’ knock under the spiral ball proved fatal.

It gave Twickenham and their team a second wind.

With Wales one point ahead but under siege, Mason Grady’s deliberate strike to deny an England run-in gave Ford the chance to kick the penalty from in front of the posts and the experienced fly-half rightly punished the visitors.

‘Increased heart rate in the stands’ – Borthwick

England head coach Steve Borthwick told BBC Sport: “I’m proud of the way the players stayed in the fight and found a way to win. It’s a young team with a mix of experience.

“There were a lot of good things from us in the first half, but the penalty count was 6-0 against us and there were two sin binnings – we made it very difficult.

“Then Wales scored a really good try but what I felt at half-time was calm and composure and the belief that we would find a way out in the second half.” It was a hard-fought match, and the theater and drama of it all was so important. There were a few people who had their heart rates up in the stands, I’m sure!”

‘We’re going to be a good team’ – Gatland

Wales head coach Warren Gatland talks to ITV: “In fairness to England, they came into the second half with a kicking strategy and play and they got some reward for that. We probably didn’t manage as well as we could have done.

“We’re going to be a good team, it’s just going to take some time. Some players learn about game management, and they learn it from experience.

“We’ve done some good things and things we’ll clean up in the future. It’s disappointing, but it’s a young team that will continue to improve.

“I thought we showed great character, and it was a must-win game and I’m proud of the effort.”

Setups

England: Steward; Freeman, Slade, Dingwall, Daly; Ford, Mitchell; Marler, George (captain), Stuart, Itoje, Chessum, Roots, Underhill, Earl.

Replacements: Get Mitchell (68), Genge for Marler (51), Dan for George (71), Cole for Stuart (51), Coles for Roots (72), Cunningham-South for Underhill (63). Not used: F. Smith, Feyi-Waboso.

Sin bin: Chessum (10), Roots (16)

Wales: Winnett; Dyer, North, Tompkins, Adams; Lloyd, Williams; G Thomas, Dee, Assiratti, Jenkins (captain), Beard, Mann, Reffell, Wainwright.

Replacements: Grady for Adams (61), Evans for Lloyd (80), Hardy for T. Williams (72), Domachowski for Thomas (58), Elias for Dee (54), Griffin for Assiratti (54), Rowlands for Beard (68) , Basham for Mann (68).

Sin bin: Gradient (70)

Match officials

Referee: James Doleman (New Zealand)

Touch judges: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand) & Hollie Davidson (Scotland)

TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

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