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England's victory marred by red card with possible citing to come

England 33 Wales 30

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England's Manu Tuilagi receives a red card. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

England's Manu Tuilagi receives a red card. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

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England's Manu Tuilagi receives a red card. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

Manu Tuilagi's late red card for a dangerous tackle on George North was the one blemish for England on an afternoon when they systematically destroyed the defending champions who went down to a third successive defeat in a Six Nations campaign for the first time since 2007.

The scoreline suggests a close contest, but two late tries by Wales when England were down to 13 players did not mask the deep divide between the sides. Wales were willing but wanting, the adhesive that held them together in the final years of the Warren Gatland era softening. England were impressively effective, both in the way they milked their visits to Wales's 22 and forced their opponents to play behind the gainline through their speed off the line and power in contact.

Afterwards, Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones said he hopes World Rugby review a first-half incident that apparently saw his testicles grabbed by England prop Joe Marler. Harlequins forward Marler, who has a chequered disciplinary history, escaped sanction in the incident that went unnoticed by the match officials.

But it is likely to be looked at by the match citing commissioner, which could leave Marler in disciplinary trouble. World Rugby's punishment for what they term "testicle grabbing or twisting or squeezing" ranges from a suspension of 12 weeks to 24 weeks or more.

Speaking at Wales' post-match press conference, Jones said: "I've got 138 Tests for my country. If I react, I get a red card. It's tough, isn't it? Hopefully World Rugby have a look at it. Joe's a good bloke, lots of things happen on a rugby field.

England coach Eddie Jones, meanwhile, raged against referee Ben O'Keeffe after Tuilagi was dismissed with six minutes left when it was decided his flying shoulder-led challenge to the head of George North warranted a red card.

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England's Anthony Watson in action. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

England's Anthony Watson in action. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

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England's Anthony Watson in action. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

In recent times, Jones has made a virtue of not criticising refereeing decisions but he was compelled to voice his anger after seeing Tuilagi fall foul of World Rugby's crackdown on dangerous play. "I just find it bizarre. I usually don't comment, but I don't see how you can tackle a guy," Jones said.

"You might as well just say you let him go, because how else are you supposed to tackle him? This bit about where your arms are - what a load of rubbish. Manu was trying to kill the tackle. That's the only thing he was trying to do. It's absolute rubbish. I'm sorry, I've broken my rule."

There was speculation in the build-up about whether Dan Biggar would play after injuring his right knee playing for Northampton the previous weekend. The fly-half duly started and within one minute was dusting himself down after being thumped hard in the tackle by Tuilagi and Mark Wilson, an incident that set the tone for what was to come.

England, as expected, were overtly physical, fast off the line and dominant despite having less possession than their opponents who, as against Ireland and France, had moments of reckless ambition that cost them. The first came after two minutes when, after Ross Moriarty had won a turnover following an England lineout on halfway, the champions indulged in some risky passing and North knocked on as he glanced at Tuilagi bearing down on him.

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England Henry Slade is tackled by Wales' Nick Tompkins. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

England Henry Slade is tackled by Wales' Nick Tompkins. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

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England Henry Slade is tackled by Wales' Nick Tompkins. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

England moved upfield and from an attacking lineout scored the opening try. It was ludicrously easy: Maro Itoje won the ball, Tom Curry set off on an outside break before passing to Ben Youngs. The scrum-half fed Anthony Watson and the wing had the space to get into his stride before wrong-footing Tomos Williams and reaching out for the line.

Wales never found a riposte to England's line-speed or the presence of Tom Curry and Courtney Lawes, their scrum disintegrated and England found the mastery that took them to the World Cup final and they settled the outcome on the hour.

Ben Youngs made a break from a ruck and Watson ran into Wales's 22. England quickly recycled the ball and a mixture of swift, accurate passing and support play gave them a two-man overlap which allowed Tuilagi to score his first international try since the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand.

Wales, with the match lost, then enjoyed their most sustained attacking period but found little give in the England defence. Ellis Genge was sent to the sin-bin with eight minutes to go for his side's persistent infringing.

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Wales' Dan Biggar scores their second try as England's Willi Heinz looks on. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters

Wales' Dan Biggar scores their second try as England's Willi Heinz looks on. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters

Action Images via Reuters

Wales' Dan Biggar scores their second try as England's Willi Heinz looks on. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters

Tuilagi was then sent off for a no-arms tackle on George North that saw him make contact with the dipping wing's head with his shoulder. Wales had a two-man advantage but it did no more than even up the contest. England repelled a driving maul, but the numbers told for Wales who scored two tries in the final three minutes through Biggar and Tipuric. They left with a bonus point but no consolation.

Scorers - England: Tries: Watson, Daly, Tuilagi. Cons: Farrell 3. Pens: Farrell 3, Ford. Wales: Tries: Tipuric 2, Biggar. Cons: Biggar 3. Pens: Halfpenny 2, Biggar.

England: E Daly, A Watson, M Tuilagi, O Farrell (c), J May, G Ford, B Youngs, T Curry, M Wilson, C Lawes, G Kruis, M Itoje, K Sinckler, J George, J Marler.

Wales: L Halfpenny, G North, N Tompkins, H Parkes, L Williams, D Biggar, T Williams, J Navidi, J Tipuric, R Moriarty, AW Jones (c), J Ball, D Lewis, K Owens, R Evans. Referee: B O'Keeffe (New Zealand).

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