Six Nations: Wales slam door on English grand design

Wales 30 England 3: Dragon power clinches Six Nations title for second year running as Lancaster's much-lauded youngsters are given a reality check

Cardiff

There were chants of "easy, easy" long before the end, but this win, and Wales's retention of the Six Nations Championship was about so much more than schadenfreude at a horribly outclassed England's failure to capture the Grand Slam. Had it not been for a shambolic first half here against Ireland on the opening weekend of this Championship, Wales might have been celebrating a fourth Grand Slam in nine years, beyond anything achieved by the great teams of the 1970s.

By comfortably outstripping England on points difference as the teams finished four wins each, the title was deservedly theirs and the manner of its delivery against the old enemy may have made it just as sweet as the Slams of 2005, 2008 and 2012, all completed amid similar scenes of tumult at this spectacular stadium.

Wales's punishing defence conceded no tries for the fourth match running – the previous three were wins away to France, Italy and Scotland – but here they added two scintillating second-half tries by the Cardiff wing Alex Cuthbert and buried England, who had only brief flashes of changing the course of one of the most one-sided title deciders you are likely to see.

Wales were winning the battle for millimetres in the early stages, building an early penalty count of four to nil against England and forcing their opponents into clumsy passes that went to ground. The upshot was a 6-0 lead from two penalties by Leigh Halfpenny (right). Owen Farrell, playing his first match in three weeks after a quad-muscle injury, replied from 40 metres in off a post on 20 minutes, but with England's scrum creaking and Tom Youngs popping up, Halfpenny's third kick sailed over from 40 metres for 9-3.

The rest of the half was exciting but also undeniably desperate as long passages of play swept back and forth: when England had a couple of half-breaks by Mike Brown on the left wing they went unfinished. A Welsh scrum-collapse allowed Farrell to kick to touch on the home 22-metre line; Tom Youngs overthrew, but Jamie Roberts for Wales kicked out on the full, giving England another go on the opposite wing. This time their attack died when Ben Youngs – whose fallible service gave no great indication that he was any more comfortable as one of only five England players in the starting XV to have played here before than those who had not – chucked a pass straight to Dan Biggar for a counter that, via Roberts, had George North stretching his legs only for Brown's tap tackle to chop the wing down just inside the England half.

Another run by North also generated crowd shrieks of anticipation but Farrell did well to chase him down. In the midst of it all, a Farrell penalty in the 27th minute drifted wide to the left and, as the last act of the first half, a nicely struck drop at goal by Biggar met the same fate.

When England hit their line-out target it was usually Tom Croft, but you wondered how much oomph the Leicester flanker had on his first Test start for a year – oomph in this kind of match meaning an incessant need for weapons-grade piledriving. Mako Vunipola came on at loosehead for England and adopted a scrummaging position so low to the ground that Adam Jones, that wily, fantastic veteran of three Welsh Grand Slams just looked at him, laughed and refused to engage. Cue the inevitable Wales penalty and more pressure on England. A kick out on the full by Alex Goode brought Roberts crashing past Chris Robshaw's tackle in midfield and ruck after ruck in the red-zone. Here the callow Englishmen of their post-2011 World Cup revamp under Stuart Lancaster battered in with finger-in-the-dyke tackles, but eventually a penalty by Halfpenny gave Wales their nine-point lead with 51 minutes gone.

And then came the moment that condemned the red rose, as much changed in personnel from two years ago as it was, to the same disembowelling feeling, as their last stab at a Slam in Dublin in 2011 when they were well beaten by Ireland. The replacement Wales hooker Ken Owens squeezed a turnover out of Geoff Parling, Justin Tipuric, Mike Phillips and Jonathan Davies whipped the ball to the right and Cuthbert thundered 30 metres for the try.

 



Farrell missed a penalty, Biggar dropped a goal from 25 metres after 64 minutes and it was 20-3, rendering the mental arithmetic all but academic (it would be Wales on plus-56 to England's plus-16 by the end). England shifted Manu Tuilagi to the wing and Brown to full-back, but Brown's next act was to be the sad stooge in Wales's and Cuthbert's second try. The Welsh ploy of pairing Sam Warburton and Tipuric as flankers had joyous results as the former burst up the middle and his openside mate got free on the right, first using Cuthbert as the decoy to draw Brown in, then giving the short scoring pass for the giant wing to celebrate his ninth try in 18 Tests. Biggar swept over the conversion and a penalty. Anyone thinking of the summer's Lions tour was envisaging many more red jerseys than white.

Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
News
people
Life and Style
love + sex
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
Jeffrey Archer holds up a copy of 'Kane and Abel', a book he says was ripped-off by Bollywood
books
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Fay Weldon suggested authors should tailor their work for Kindle readers
books
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers