England 29 Wales 18 match report: Stuart Lancaster's men enjoy their day in the sun at expense of weary Wales

England enter next weekend's finale of the Six Nations in contention for title

Twickenham

The unseasonal Six Nations sunshine beat down unrelentingly here, adding several degrees of heat to an already molten contest, but infinitely more importantly for England, the sun shone on the righteous.

Stuart Lancaster’s team beat Wales with something to spare to end the visitors’ recent domination of this tournament, keeping alive their own title hopes into the bargain. They also secured a first Triple Crown in more than a decade and landed a solid blow ahead of next year’s World Cup meeting between the two countries. A very decent afternoon’s work, all things considered.

Yet there was an additional element for England to savour, one that in the long run may prove the most significant of all: namely, that they made this Welsh team look distinctly elderly, if not quite geriatric. Some of the men at the heart of the Red Dragons’ success over the last few campaigns – the props Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones, to name but two – struggled to live with the pace of the game and while they tried everything they knew, legal and illegal, to put the brakes on the home side’s high-energy, up-tempo brand of rugby, they could not slow them by nearly enough. Jenkins, in particular, was found out, and he ended his afternoon in the sin bin.

Away from the bump and grind of scrum, ruck and maul, there were other Welsh misfires: at half-back, where the error-prone Rhys Webb and the pedestrian Rhys Priestland endured many and varied indignities; and in midfield, where the much-vaunted Lions pairing of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies finished a distant second in their personal set-to with Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell. Eighteen months out from the next global gathering, their head coach Warren Gatland has a whole lot of thinking to do.

 

If Lancaster must also exercise his little grey cells as a result of this victory, the red-rose head coach will find it a far more pleasurable experience. He knows now that he is picking from serious strength on the wing, at centre and in all three front-row positions, and has plenty in the cupboard in every back-five position bar open-side flanker, where Chris Robshaw, his captain, remains head and shoulders above the competition. Robshaw fought the good fight at the breakdown with a rare relish yesterday, matching Sam Warburton, the nearest thing he has to a nemesis, every step of the way. And Warburton was bang on his game, unlike a clear majority of his compatriots.

At no point in the contest did Wales find themselves ahead, and they would have spent their day a hell of a lot further behind but for Leigh Halfpenny’s astonishing contribution from the kicking tee. Some of the penalties England conceded were of the super-soft variety, but four of his six sightings of the sticks were from telescope range. The Lions full-back also chipped in defensively: had he not forced Burrell into a brief but crucial brush with the touchline as the big Northampton centre set sail in pursuit of a second try midway through the final quarter, the visitors would have struggled to keep the score under 40. It was a brave tackle, to say the least, and the shoulder damage Halfpenny suffered means his season is at an end.

Not that he was alone in treating the crowd to a goal-kicking demonstration. Owen Farrell, presented with almost as many opportunities from almost as many ridiculously difficult positions, did not miss either: indeed, it was difficult to recall a major international match in which two marksmen achieved such levels of mastery. It should be added at this point that Farrell’s tactical kicking, including a couple of reverse-angled rolling touchfinders that forced the whole of Wales into a leaden-footed retreat, bordered on the sublime.

19 points came from the boot of Owen Farrell (GETTY) 19 points came from the boot of Owen Farrell (GETTY) A year previously, when Wales ravaged England so comprehensively in Cardiff, their first meaningful assaults were at the scrum. But after winning themselves a penalty at the first set-piece yesterday, they were out-manoeuvred by Joe Marler and David Wilson. The French referee Romain Poite, the most accurate of the sport’s leading officials in this most complex of areas, took a distinct dislike to Jenkins, repeatedly penalising him for a failure to drive straight. Some of the long-serving prop’s rivals have spent years waiting for him to get his comeuppance. For them, Sunday was a red letter day, as well as a yellow card one.

It was Wilson, of all people on God’s earth, who made the first telling break in open field – a baby elephant-style rumble into the Wales 22 – and had England managed the resulting overlap correctly, they would have been rewarded with seven sweet points. Not for the first time in this competition, they butchered it. However, when Poite then pulled up Wales at a ruck close to the line, Danny Care spotted a number of opponents with their backs turned and promptly took advantage of the collective schoolboy error by scoring the easiest of sucker-punch tries.

That was on four minutes and while the hosts had to wait half an hour to strike a second time – Twelvetrees, receiving the ball and dropping it on to his right boot in one smooth movement, slid the most delicate of scoring kicks into the left corner for Burrell to touch down – there was a feeling that the only people capable of beating England in this game were England themselves.

But for an ill-timed disappearance into the red mist at the back end of the first half – Dylan Hartley, the hooker, conceded two penalties in the space of three minutes and gifted Halfpenny half a dozen points as a consequence – England would have turned round with a winning lead. As it was, Farrell made up the shortfall with two kicks of his own, firstly when the Welsh front row splintered at a scrum on 45 minutes and then when Jenkins committed one set-piece sin too many and left funereally for the cooler.

There was a Welsh response of sorts, but their huffing and puffing amounted to precious little. By the end, Farrell could be seen rejecting a kickable penalty in favour of a punt to touch. Anyone would have thought he was rubbing it in.

Read more: England v Wales - as it happened
Lancaster: We had our hearts in our mouths
Comment: Aggressive Lawes serves up humble pie

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen