Player ratings: England dream stays alive

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 22:01

OPINION: After all the entertainment of the pre-match press conferences over the past week, England and Wales finally met on Saturday, with England edging a tense 12-6 win at Twickenham.

It was a drama-filled spectacle, if not an end-to-end classic, but England’s hopes of a third-straight title remained alive thanks to an excellent defensive second half performance.

Alex Shaw rated the England players!

15 Mike Brown:
The full-back spilled one ball under pressure that he had to cover a little too much ground to make, but other than that he was as safe as houses under the peppering of the Welsh kickers. He ran the ball back with intent and helped keep England in the right areas of pitch on a day when the conditions had a strong bearing on the game.

14 Anthony Watson:
Injury saw Watson leave the game just after the half and he didn’t quite have the same impact on the game he did a week before. He was solid, particularly as a kick-chaser, where he pressured the Welsh back three.

13 Jonathan Joseph:
The Bath centre certainly impressed with his defensive work on his return to the XV, particularly with his ability to blitz up and put pressure on the Welsh back-line, before drifting out with play and not getting caught out in wider channels. He didn’t have too many opportunities to influence the game in attack.

12 Owen Farrell:
One errant pass aside, Farrell shone at Twickenham. From his long-distance grubber to send Jonny May through for his first try to countless line-breaks and manipulations of field position, the Saracens playmaker delivered the control England needed in the wet conditions. Saved an almost certain try with his cover defence on Aaron Shingler’s big second half break, too.
11 Jonny May:
Took his two tries well in the first half and constantly showed up on England’s kick chase. Had a quieter second half but still made a significant contribution in defence and in the aerial battle.
10 George Ford:
Ford’s tactical kicking wasn’t quite as effective as it was a week before in Rome, but his fluency and connection with Farrell continued to impress. He was subbed off as England looked to see out the game, with Farrell moving inside to fly-half.
9 Danny Care:
Didn’t quite inject the tempo into England that he often does off the bench, but with the wet conditions, that was understandable. A lot of England’s successful carries around the fringe ran through Care’s play at the breakdown. Lost some of his control in the second half.
8 Sam Simmonds:
Had a good first half, albeit in a much more controlled way than his free-running performance against Italy, but an injury saw him leave the field at half-time.

7 Chris Robshaw:
A very industrious performance, with the flanker contributing significantly to England’s carrying-by-committee approach in the absence of Billy Vunipola. Coped well with the move to No 8 following the departure of Sam Simmonds.
6 Courtney Lawes:
Lawes played an important role in England’s quick ball at the breakdown and really stood out clearing Welsh fetchers, an area which Wales dominated in for the most part. He seemed to be the go-to man at the lineout, too.
5 Maro Itoje:
A good all-round showing, with the Saracens man’s line-speed showing up particularly well. Didn’t quite have his usual set-piece impact with limited lineouts but carried earnestly close to the ruck. Made some key one-on-one tackles late in the game.
4 Joe Launchbury:
The Wasps lock had a monster game in terms of his work rate and carrying and set up May’s second try with a fine offload whilst being tackled towards touch by two Welsh players. Defended with impressive line-speed, too.
3 Dan Cole:
Scrummaged evenly against Rob Evans and kept himself busy in the loose, as part of England’s successful battle with the gain-line.
2 Dylan Hartley:
Another game with 100% success rate at the lineout for Hartley. Not the biggest attacking contribution with ball in hand, but also complemented his set-piece work with an efficient defensive showing.
1 Mako Vunipola:
Got through a mountain of work, just as he did in Rome a week ago. Out-scrummaged both Italian looseheads in that game and more than held his own against the considerable step up in quality that was Samson Lee this week. Busted a gut for 76 minutes.

16 Jamie George:
Missed an early lineout throw when replacing Hartley for a HIA but had success after. A slightly longer shift saw him show off his carrying and defensive work, too.
17 Alec Hepburn:
Played his part in the late English defensive stand.
18 Harry Williams:
Didn’t have much to do after coming on other than tackle until the final whistle and he delivered.
19 George Kruis:
Strong showing off the bench, popping up at the lineout and with ball-in-hand.
20 Sam Underhill:
Came on at half-time, replacing the inured Simmonds. Made an excellent try-saving tackle on Scott Williams when the game was still in the balance.
21 Richard Wigglesworth:
Gave more control than a tiring Care, but his responsibilities were mainly defensive with Wales’ late push.
22 Ben Te'o:
Didn’t have long to make an impact, as England looked to repel the Welsh onslaught and reorganised their midfield accordingly.
23 Jack Nowell:
Looked dangerous with his footwork but coughed up a turnover and a penalty shortly after he arrived on the pitch.