Scoreline flatters flailing Wales as they lose 33-30 against England

The flags of Wales and England

Jon Gower

Two nations going to war for eighty minutes: the annual clash between Wales and England sets two teams and, seemingly two national histories against each other.  In a pre-match interview, an unusually circumspect Eddie Jones looked forward to ‘battle’ as he fully acknowledged the intensity of it, and the tense nature of the occasion.  The final 33-30 scoreline rather flattered Wales, who had often seemed incapable of breaking through, even when they had a one-man and then a two-man advantage.

Wales were starting without Taulupe Faletau, injured last weekend while on duties for Bath but had brought in some big guns, with Rob Evans and Josh Navidi back in the pack, even though Navidi has had precious little play-time this year.  Because England’s forwards pack some real power, pitting the likes of Joe Marler and Sinckler against Rob Evans and Dillon Lewis.  And then there’s the Saracens’ Maro Itoje who is a dangerous team all by himself, soaring in the lineout and insatiably hungry for turnover ball.  Luckily for Wales there was experience galore in the ranks, with the talismanic Ken Owens, the indestructible Dan Biggar – unrattled by recent injury – and the indefatigable captain Alun Wyn Jones, all on patriotic duty.

An Itoje steal in the air at the throw-in gifted England an early try, feeding Anthony Watson, who put on his jet boots to fly over the line.  Captain Owen Farrell nonchalantly slotted over the extra couple of points.  Clearly not the start the Welsh desired.

A punt gun kick by Biggar isolated Daly who knocked on, setting up a solid Welsh scrum and a real red flow toward the line, four phases of muscular running, with George North just losing the ball over the whitewash.  A Welsh penalty saw Halfpenny settle nerves a bit with three points but Farrell replied with a successful kick through the posts after Wales handled the ball on the ground.  Wales were proving successful in the tackle area, Tipuric jackalling like, well, a jackal followed by a red surge forward, Navidi carrying powerfully, led to another Welsh penalty.  Halfpenny made it look easy, bringing the score at the 20-minute mark to England 10-6 Wales.

England’s second try started again with Itoje claiming the ball in the line-out but this time it was Daly who scythed over in the corner after neat interplay between Youngs, Ford and Farrell.  With a two-score advantage, it underlined how many mistakes were creeping into Welsh play as the pressure built.

Dispiritingly, the score was 17-6 just before Wales had given away another penalty for collapsing the scrum and Farrell rubbed salt in the wound as he opened the points difference to 14 points.  English line speed, in particular, was proving disruptive in the extreme.  In extra time in the half Biggar put a penalty through the posts.  Time for some soul-searching, or as the rugby cliché has it, for digging deep.  Eliminating mistakes must have been part of the changing room mantra.

 

Arduous

An explosive start to the second half by Wales saw Tipuric released for the line after intelligent play by Tompkins deftly avoiding men and a thrusting run by Navidi right from the kick-off.  Wales had narrowed the margin to four points in just a minute of high octane running and positivity.

Farrell kicked a penalty but Wales were soon back in the running, as Rhys Webb came on for Tomos Williams and Liam Williams needled the white defensive line.  As play flowed towards the Welsh line the defence held firm and soon a Welsh scrum seemed a pivotal point in the game as it went England’s way.  Another white penalty, kicked by Ford, stretched England’s advantage to ten points, 26-16. Tompkins injected pace and acceleration to a Welsh movement as Jake Ball limped off.  This had been a passage of play when English passing had been superb, as if it involved superglue.  England started linking up and surged into the Welsh 22 and when Ford passed to Manu Tuilagi to score, it seemed inevitable, England heading even this early on for the Triple Crown as a consequence of commanding strength.  Farrell converted the try, setting up a long, arduous final twenty minutes for the Welsh.

Wales regrouped and set off at a lick, putting together a multi-phase play but a crunching tackle on Liam Williams saw him lose the ball.  Welsh pressure still cooked up, yielding a put in right in the corner.  There had been lots of bodies down on the ground, Aaron Shingler and Alun Wyn Jones graduates in the school of hard knocks.  A Welsh scrum under the posts was a real clash of the titans, with just ten minutes to go with red wave after red wave pressing for the line.  Ellis Genge was given the yellow card, belatedly after multiple English infringements.

But Wales still couldn’t capitalise but North was denied a try when he was tackled without the use of arms, Tuilagi shoulder-charging the Anglesey giant’s head and red-carded as a consequence.  The English, down to 13 men responded bravely, awarded a pressure-relieving scrum with five minutes left to go. But Biggar showed flair and scored a fingertip try, a flash of late pride and face-saving to boot.  Blue-helmeted Tipuric scored a try in the final breath of this intense game after Rhys Webb had a trademark breaking run.

Biggar’s sure-footed conversion concluded a game which was Wales’ 3rd consecutive defeat for the first time since 2016.  It was a deceivingly respectable scoreline which didn’t fully reflect English superiority and confidence alongside Wales’ simple inability to score in Twickenham’s superheated rugby cauldron.

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Philip John
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Philip John

Totally agree. Clueless attacking play in the main. Then try to nick a victory at the end. Its every game now

Martin E
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Martin E

Perhaps if the Kiwi ref had dealt with the English earlier they wouldn’t have won their hollow triple crown.

K. K
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K. K

On one hand, I appreciate that Wales are a work in progress project for Pivac and Co. On the other hand, I saw a completely clueless set of tactics which somehow resulted in only a three point loss. The smell of 90s rot and the presence of Johnny McNicoll who is reminiscent of the type of player who was good but not international standard is fairly worrying. I don’t have a problem with Pivac but his backroom staff resembles the Labour Party with lots of jobs for the boys who have achieved very little from a coaching perspective. That suits… Read more »

Huw J Davies
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Huw J Davies

England were vulnerable at the end. Remember how Scotland came back last year. We are (predictably) missing Sean Edwards’s defensive training and have an unsettled back line with too many of the more experienced players only performing at a mediocre level. We are ponderous when attacking to order but showed a bit of real flair when we don’t have time to think. Tompkins looks like he can create some sparks once he adjusts to international rugby. I hope young Costelow graduates from the under 20s sooner rather than later and doesn’t have his talent wasted by his coaches. Let’s put… Read more »

Leigh Richards
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Leigh Richards

Afraid wales have reverted to the wales which existed before gatland & edwards time in charge – a side capable of moments of flair but unable to stop conceding tries. Watch a tape of the fiji match from 2007 and yesterday’s game and you wont see a lot of difference. A win against scotland is now a must – be a disaster to go from being grand slam champions and world cup semi finalists to propping up the table in a matter of months

Huw J Davies
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Huw J Davies

Sometimes I think we have unreal expectations of the Wales rugby team. Other than the 1970s we haven’t been consistently better than average. Clive Rowlands and John Dawes as coaches won, between them, 68% of games. Even under Gatland’s regime we have won only 55%. Take out the three Grand Slams and we won 49% of the rest. And that is considered great! Beating Scotland next week, and that game is very winnable, would leave us on 40% for this 6 nations campaign and three defeats by a total of 17 points wouldn’t be a disaster. I remember for a… Read more »

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

You’re right, but it helps if you’re playing against a side that doesn’t cheat or intimidate. Farrell is not a sportsman (there’s an ‘Anti-tribute’ to him on YouTube which doesn’t actually do justice to his bad attitude). As a captain, he’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from the dignified Alun Wyn Jones. I get the impression that the behaviour of the England team is actually condoned, if not encouragd, by their coach.

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

I don’t see how any side could cope with England’s line speed at the moment, but nevertheless Wales can match England player for player. The difference between the two sides in this match: England had strategy, Wales didn’t. Only when they’ve developed one and can stop ‘experimenting’ will they be a successful team again. This time next year, I hope to see them creating play rather than responding to it.

Johnny Gamble
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Johnny Gamble

Couldn’t care less. I am gutted for Wales for 365 Days of the Year not just for 80 minutes over a game of International Rugby.

Stephen Bale
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Stephen Bale

War is inappropriate as a metaphor for sport.

Kerry Davies
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Kerry Davies

Every single report in the English press praises the English brutality and bullying which is fairly accurate but had the ref told Wales beforehand that punching, slapping and cheap shots were to be the norm I think we might have seen a different game. Farrell committed two separate off the ball acts of violence which could easily have seen him yellow carded twice and England without their captain for 70 minutes.
The theme seems to have been to get the retaliation in first. If only our lads had known, eh?

stuart stanton
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stuart stanton

Not so sure…Wales have never before scored 30pts against England in an away game……Wembley 1999 was a ‘home’, technically. Plus, a moment to remember forever…….not the scrotum grab…..the first Welsh try…..