Wales and Warren Gatland left fuming over controversial TMO decision in defeat to England
England 12 Wales 6
England lacked the volume of their head coach in the build-up, but such is the nous and hardness they have developed under Eddie Jones that they again found a way to win despite not scoring a point in the final hour. The finishers became starters against depleted opponents who were within a disallowed try of victory.
It was England's fifth successive victory against Wales in the tournament, equalling their record, but while the visitors camouflaged their injury problems against Scotland, the loss of their fullback Leigh Halfpenny before the kick-off with a foot infection forced them to replace him with an outhalf in Gareth Anscombe and left them without an established international goal-kicker. It also meant they had a back three of Six Nations rookies.
Pressure, as Eddie Jones would say. One of the England head coach's targets was the Wales outhalf Rhys Patchell who was making his first away start in the championship.
He started confidently, switching sides at the kick-off and inducing a knock-on by Anthony Watson before working a loop from a scrum for Anscombe to kick to the line for Steff Evans but George Ford reached it first.
Patchell then found out what Jones was on about. He had been taken out marginally late by Ford after his first touch of the ball and his opposite number was quick off the line to challenge the Scarlet and give him no time to think, but when Danny Care perfectly weighted his box-kick after two minutes, Watson knocked the ball back as Patchell stretched out his arms and England had a disorganised defence to exploit.
Owen Farrell spotted that Josh Adams was off his wing and kicked to the line with the outside of his right foot. Jonny May, whose 10 international tries did not include one in the Six Nations, was on the ball in an instant and hard though Adams tried to make up ground, all he could do was stop May from scoring under the posts.
Farrell, whose almost telepathic understanding with Ford took the rush out of Wales's defence, was involved in England's second try after 19 minutes. They were playing at a tempo that Wales were unable to slow: when Josh Navidi did get over the ball, he was dumped on the ground and England picked and ran, getting over the gainline and widening the point of attack.
Farrell is dangerous when armed with quick possession and as he looked left, he saw the second-row Joe Launchbury near the touchline and found him with a long pass. The Wasp drew the defenders Adams and Patchell, fending them off with his right hand and clutching the ball in his left before passing inside to the supporting May.
Patchell had earlier missed a 45-metre penalty and with Wales trailing by 12 points before the end of a first quarter in which the outhalf had been squeezed, the match had become a test of his temperament: his bottle had never been in doubt. His response was to roll a kick towards the left wing where Evans failed to pick up the ball but inadvertently kicked it over the line with his shin. Anscombe reached it first, just ahead of Watson, but the question was whether he had applied downward pressure on the ball.
The touch judge George Clancy thought he had, but the television match official Glenn Newman disagreed and Wales were denied. It looked a 50-50 call, one which is given as often as it is refused, and Wales had to be content with a Patchell penalty from under the posts as the referee Jérôme Garcès had been playing advantage.
"I still can't understand why that's not a try," said Warren Gatland of the disallowed effort. "The wording was the grounding wasn't clear but we can clearly see his hand on it. That's a big moment in the game, especially to get it wrong in front of 82,000."
Wales were to come close again almost at the same point in the second half when they put together their best move of the match, Anscombe breaking from his own half for Shingler, whose earlier break and chip had seen Farrell save England by falling on the ball, Hadleigh Parkes and George North to free Scott Williams, whose try won the match for Wales here in 2012.
The centre dived for the line five metres out, looking to use the surface dampness to slide over, but Sam Underhill, a replacement for Sam Simmonds at the start of the second half, made the sort of tackle that wins matches as much as a try, diving low and getting underneath Williams to force his legs into touch before he could think about touching down.
Anscombe was by now playing at outhalf having been used regularly at first receiver while Patchell was on the field. He found space, but England's defence was quick to recover and Wales were the more hurried in everything, some of their kicking lacking direction in their haste to get rid of the ball. England, as they had done in Rome, kicked diagonally to give their wings a straight-line chase and had a calculation Wales lacked.
Wales, though, clung on, dangerous on the counter-attack. One, prompted by Anscombe, led to a penalty he converted after Jamie George was caught offside. The visitors had four minutes to fashion victory and if they were unable to get near the champions' line, they gave them a jolt.
"It was a real arm-wrestle," said Eddie Jones afterwards. "The good thing is we're getting good at winning those sorts of games. Wales are a tough team and full credit to them."
Scorers - England: May 2 tries; Farrell con. Wales: Patchell pen, Anscombe pen.
England: M Brown; A Watson, J Joseph, O Farrell, J May; G Ford, D Care, M Vunipola, D Hartley, D Cole, J Launchbury, M Itoje, C Lawes, C Robshaw, S Simmonds. Replacements: J Nowell for Watson (45), B Te'o for Ford (68), R Wigglesworth for Care (65), J George for Hartley (1 for HIA, 51 permanent), H Williams for Cole (65), G Kruis for Launchbury (68), S Underhill for Simmonds (41), A Hepburn for Vunipola (77).
Wales: G Anscombe; J Adams, S Williams, H Parkes, S Evans; R Patchell, G Davies; R Moriarty, J Navidi, A Shingler, A Wyn Jones (c), C Hill, S Lee, K Owens, R Evans. Replacements: G North for Patchell (56), A Davies for G Davies (66), W Jones for R Evans (58), E Dee for Owens (65), T Francis for Lee (58), B Davies for Hill (74), J Tipuric for Moriarty (65).
Referee: J Garcès (France)
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