5:00pm Sunday 9th March 2014
By Iwan Gabe Davies
A DISAPPOINTING Wales slumped to defeat after England deservedly claimed a Triple Crown by comprehensively outplaying the visitors at a sun baked Twickenham.
The hosts showed great adventure and kept their Six Nations title hopes very much alive while Wales have plenty to ponder after a disappointing campaign saw them well beaten in both away games to England and Ireland.
The visitors created plenty of openings and chances in front of a packed Twickenham but were guilty of squandering try-scoring chances through a combination of abysmal decision-making and dreadful handling.
Their comprehensive triumph saw England avenge last season’s humiliating 30-3 defeat to Wales at the Millennium Stadium which saw them lose out not only on a Grand Slam but the Six Nations as well.
England got off to a great start when scrum-half Danny Care caught Wales napping with a tap and go from five metres out after some intense pressure.
The Harlequins man was allowed to cross all too easily from a penalty after just five minutes, fly-half Owen Farrell converting to give his side a 7-0 lead.
Wales hit back immediately when full-back Leigh Halfpenny slotted a penalty to ease his side’s jitters after the hosts needlessly infringed trying to run the ball from deep.
It was the visitors’ turn to put their opponents under the cosh only for wing George North to squander a promising move by kicking into touch rather than keep ball in hand.
The home side cleared their lines effectively and went on the offensive again, Farrell putting his side 10-3 after 18 minutes with a well struck penalty after openside prop Gethin Jenkins was penalised at a scrum.
A vital tackle by centre Jamie Roberts snuffed out another promising England offensive, the hosts penalised at a ruck and Halfpenny monster shot at goal from 52 metres out reduced the arrears to just four points after 22 minutes.
A shocking clearance kick by Wales No 10 Rhys Priestland, who kicked the ball dead from outside his own 22, gave Stuart Lancaster’s men more prime attacking field position.
They were eventually awarded a penalty which Farrell kicked to give them a 13-6 advantage a few minutes later.
A lovely break by No 9 Rhys Webb and his pass to Roberts caused panic in England’s defence but centre Jonathan Davies made a hash of a kick ahead and the ball was turned over.
Another thunderous penalty by Halfpenny kept them in the game with nine minutes to go to half-time after Jenkins won a turnover.
A lost Wales lineout in their own 22 gifted England a try in the 33rd minute, captain and openside Sam Warburton unable to hold on to hooker Richard Hibbard’s throw.
England spread the ball, wing Jonny May cut inside before centre Billy Twelvetrees’ neat chip found his midfield partner Luther Burrell who scored a try in the corner, Farrell’s excellent conversion saw England take a 20-9 ahead.
A silly penalty conceded by England hooker Dylan Hartley in front of his posts gave the visitors another lifeline before half-time, Halfpenny slotting the penalty in front of the posts.
And another magnificent long range kick by the No 15 made the score 20-15 when England should have been out of site, the hosts penalised after Hartley conceded a penalty for playing the ball following May knocking the ball on from an up and under.
Wales were somehow just a score adrift when England should have been out of site.
And Warburton’s men could have taken the lead in the opening exchanges of the second half, North again butchering a golden chance when he was given space and shrugged off a tackle before throwing a shocking forward pass to again highlight his woeful lack of skill.
The visitors gave away another penalty at the scrum which Farrell gleefully kicked to give his side a 23-15 advantage.
Wales mounted a lovely move, initiated by wing Alex Cuthbert and then Priestland only for Jamie Roberts to kick ahead aimlessly when his side had an overlap.
The lively Webb created an opening but knocked on as he looked to get the ball away, his game ending in the 52nd minute when he was injured, replaced by Mike Phillips.
From that move, England turned over and a last ditch Cuthbert tackle stopped Jack Nowell tearing away.
Disaster struck for the visitors seconds later when Jenkins was yellow carded for persistently infringing at the scrum, Farrell kicking England 26-15 ahead.
Warburton’s men were grateful to Hartley again after he took out number eight Taulupe Faletau in the air at a lineout, Halfpenny again obliging with another fine penalty.
But this was cancelled out by Farrell from the restart as Wales played the ball on the ground to give away another stupid infringement, Farrell restoring their 11-point advantage.
The visitors began to feel the strain, especially when reduced to 14 men, head coach Warren Gatland bringing on Dan Biggar at outside-half in place of the poor Priestland in a desperate attempt to change the game.
Jenkins didn’t come back on the field as Paul James took his place from the bench. He had an immediate impact, the Wales eight shoving England off the ball on their own ball and winning a penalty.
The game opened up in the closing stages and England should have stretched their lead after a glorious move nearly saw Burrell cross for his second try, but his foot was in touch just before touching down.
England ended the game in the same way they started, on top, as Wales successfully prevented their defeat turning into a rout.
England: Mike Brown (Alex Goode 78), Jack Nowell, Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees, Jonny May, Owen Farrell (George , Danny Care (Lee Dixon 78); Joe Marler (Mako Vunipola 64), Dylan Hartley (Tom Youngs 69), David Wilson (Henry Thomas 73), Joe Launchbury (Dave Attwood 73), Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw (captain), Ben Morgan (Tom Johnson 78)
England scorers: Tries – Danny Care (5) Luther Burrell (33), Conversions – Owen Farrell (5) (33), Penalties – Farrell (18), (26) (46) (54) (59)
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Liam Williams 74), Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North, Rhys Priestland (Dan Biggar 61), Rhys Webb (Mike Phillips 52); Gethin Jenkins (Paul James 64), Richard Hibbard (Ken Owens 54), Adam Jones (Rhodri Jones 66), Jake Ball (Andrew Coombs 73), Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate (Justin Tipuric 73), Sam Warburton (capt), Taulupe Faletau
Wales scorers: Penalties – Leigh Halfpenny (8) (22) (31) (37) (40) (57)
Referee : Romain Poite (France)
Attendance: 81, 641
Argus star man: Mike Brown
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