Battling Wales ensured they picked up a losing bonus-point at Twickenham as they closed to within three points at the end of another epic battle against the auld enemy.
England led 20-9 at the break, but were hit by a try from the kick-off at the start of the second half as Wayne Pivac’s men got their fight-back off to an explosive start. Justin Tipuric scored twice after the break, the second try coming when England were down to 13 men.
Having lost replacement prop Ellis Genge to a yellow card, they lost centre Manu Tuilagi to a straight red for a shoulder to the head in a last ditch tackle to try to stop the Wales wing. Even so, they hung on to clinch the Triple Crown for the 25th time.
In a rip-roaring start Dan Biggar was smashed early on by a combination of Tom Curry and Tuilagi as England set out their stall. They continued to be dominant in the tackle and took the lead from a neat line-out move through returning wing Anthony Watson.
Maro Itoje won set-piece possession, Jamie George found Ben Youngs, and the scrum-half passed inside to Watson. The Bath man danced past Tomos Williams and reached the line to score a try that Owen Farrell converted.
Liam Williams and Elliot Daly then competed for a Biggar cross-kick as Wales looked for a response and George North crossed the line only to see the ball spilled in contact. England’s Jonny May, meanwhile, left the field for a head injury assessment to be replaced by Henry Slade.
When North went over the line, Farrell was penalised for a shove and Halfpenny stepped up to kick the penalty. Farrell responded with an England penalty after Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones was penalised for not rolling away at a ruck.
Halfpenny – kicking ahead of Biggar initially – cancelled out the home captain’s effort soon after. The game was dominated by a kicking battle. It was fast, frenetic and brutal.
After his team won a scrum penalty Farrell kicked to the corner rather than at goal and England went on the attack. The move ended with Farrell and George Ford sending Daly over in the corner for England’s second try.
Farrell nailed the touchline conversion to give the hosts a 17-6 lead. His conversion was followed by a penalty after Wales flanker Ross Moriarty was penalised for collapsing England’s driving maul.
Biggar then stood up from the tee on the half-time whistle and his first kick of the afternoon meant Pivac’s side turned around for the second period 11 points down.
They needed a fast start to the second half and they got exactly that. England kicked off deep to the Wales 22, Wales broke clear up the right touchline through the sensational Josh Navidi.
The flanker passed inside to Tomos Williams and he then went inside once more to Tipuric. The Opsreys’ flanker had 30 metres to go, but nobody was going to stop him from scoring a try at the posts that Biggar improved.
England restored their poise and advantage with successive penalties from Farrell and Ford and then conjured up a walk-in try for Tuilagi that Farrell converted. That stretched their lead to 17 points and put them firmly back on course for the Triple Crown.
Wales were up against it in the final quarter, but knuckled down and emerged with great credit as they cut the gap to a mere three points with tries from Biggar and Tipuric. Biggar converted them both, but Wales ran out of time at the end and had to be content with taking home a single point.
Business and Sports News from Mike Armstrong – See http://mikearmstrong.me