Six Nations: Justin Tipuric provides perfect example to Welsh warriors
the millennium stadium
Sunday 17 March 2013
The preserve that Wales (and the Lions) hoped Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric, natural openside flankers, could make their own and they did. It took England a half-hour to work out how to deny the two scavengers, giving Wales time to develop the pick-and-go game once associated with England.
England were penalised twice in the first quarter for not rolling clear of breakdowns but they turned the tide in the middle part of the match. That, though, was the best of it since Wales also developed their own version of Ireland's choke tackle, forcing turnovers which England could ill afford. That it should be Warburton galloping into a clear field and Tipuric giving Alex Cuthbert the pass for the wing's second try said it all.
The tally of penalties awarded against England said everything about their failure in this area. There were 13 full penalties to Wales and two free-kicks; England had only three penalties in each half and that necessity for a game of pace, quick ball, was absolutely denied them.
Warburton was a strong candidate to lead the Lions before injury disrupted his season; he is back in the same position, even if he was not the captain here.
England made little impact on Italy's pack six days earlier and struggled to match Wales here. So confident were Wales in their scrum, with Adam Jones at prop, that when they forced a penalty at the very first scrum, on England's 22, they chose to scrum again rather than kick for goal, and the subsequent phase of play led to the first score of the game.
Just when England looked to have discovered parity they were squeezed again, and so uncertain were they at the next scrum that a free-kick was conceded. The second half was no better: Joe Marler's side of the scrum went down for a Wales penalty, and when Mako Vunipola replaced Marler for the next scrum the same thing happened. When last did England go into a game fearing the award of a scrum, either for or against?
Here again an area of traditional England strength has been a weakness all Championship. A promising position in the Wales 22 was lost to an overthrow taken by Tipuric but the option provided, for the first time this year, by Tom Croft came in handy. Yet overall England could make little impact on Wales, for whom Alun Wyn Jones grew towards the stature he enjoyed as a 2009 Lion. Every platform from which to build an attack was denied England. One commentator described Wales as regimented in the build-up to this game, but if this was regimentation, Wales will take all they can get.
This was the day when Mike Phillips became his country's most-capped scrum-half, and he played like it. One long break had Chris Ashton struggling and he was the most fluent of links with his backs, on the few occasions Wales used them. Dan Biggar enjoyed a mixed game but required no more.
Ben Youngs, with a worse platform, still read the play well but the heart bled for Owen Farrell. On a diet of bread and water, he contrived all he knew and tackled his heart out; it may be enough to earn him a Lions shirt, and Youngs should go too.
Wins matches. Leigh Halfpenny, remarkably solid in defence, was just as solid aiming at goal and his three first-half kicks flew over from 25, 45 and 34 metres. Farrell, allowed only two attempts before the interval, required the upright to help a 42-metre kick over and was wide with a similar effort from an acute angle.
It became no better for Farrell in the second half, his only attempt well struck but just wide. Halfpenny, in contrast, missed only the conversion of Cuthbert's first try before hurting a leg and, having laid the foundations, gave way to Biggar as Wales applied the coup de grâce.
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