Player ratings: Come in No.1
OPINION: Wales and England played out a weird game of rugby that never really took off as a spectacle, despite moments of brilliance on both sides.
It was a game both teams clearly wanted to win, but it was ultimately Wales who steadied the ship and are now – technically at least – the best side on the planet.
Here are Ian Cameron‘s Welsh player ratings:
15. Leigh Halfpenny
A late change for Liam Williams who pulled up with a tight hamstring. Having not played since last November, it was an understandably rusty turn for a normally safe pair of hands. The Scarlet coughed up a highball from Willie Heinz in the 16th minute, giving England a leg up in the Welsh 22. He spilt the ball again in contact in the 44th minute. A 74th-minute chip and collect and subsequent 50-metre penalty kick saved his blushes.
14. George North
The giant wing is starting to find the form that made him a superstar of the game in his teens. Took his try brilliantly from Dan Biggar’s pin-point kick.
13. Jonathan Davies
An early turnover for Davies was his first-half highlight in what was overall a pretty quiet game for the Lions centre.
12. Hadleigh Parkes
Carried solidly and defensively sound, as ever. Helped earn Anthony Watson a card for a deliberate knock-on. Still yet to hit the heights reached at the Six Nations, and question marks remain over the offensive threat he poses at the very highest level.
11. Josh Adams
Caught out of position in the 9th minute from a kick behind that could have led to a Cokanasiga try. Possibly needs to look for more work in attack. Nine metres from three carries is a pretty poor return for an international winger.
10. Dan Biggar
A vintage performance from Biggar. His quick thinking for the tap penalty in the 32nd minute caught England unaware and moments later followed it with a sensational cross-field kick for George North. Brilliant in the air, as we’ve come to expect. Smashed Itoje not once but twice.
9. Gareth Davies
Box kicked well. Looked sore after shipping a knock to his leg in the first half, which he did his best to run off.
1. Nicky Smith
Getting demolished at the scrum by Dan Cole in the 7th minute won’t have helped his confidence. Went some way to making up for it with a brilliant turnover a few minutes later. Won a scrum penalty off Cole in the 20th minute and got better as the game went on. Carried well.
2. Ken Owens
After a relatively flat performance in Twickenham last week he’ll be pleased with a more aggressive and productive display in Cardiff.
3. Tomas Francis
Wales’ scrum got better as the game went on and Francis played his part – but it still feels like a real work-on for Gatland and co. The Exeter Chiefs tighthead definitely looks leaner and fitter and got through a great deal more work in the loose than six days earlier.
The bearded piano shifter got his turn with a starting spot. Gave away a coach killer penalty in the 55th minute for not rolling away, and made sure everyone could see he was a bit ginger getting up.
5. Alun Wyn Jones
Wales’ record cap holder led from the front. Was key to a 48th-minute turnover that effectively evicted England from their try-line. Was in English faces all day long.
6. Aaron Wainwright
An industrious afternoon for the back row – pinching a lineout and maintaining a high nuisance factor before being replaced. Did miss two out of seven tackles. With the injury to James Davies (and Faletau previously) his RWC stock will surely have risen all the same.
7. James Davies
Was taken off permanently in the 24th minute with what looked like a head injury. A disappointing end to what looked like a promising afternoon for Cubby Boi.
8. Ross Moriarty
Fronted up well. Smashed Billy Vunipola with the aid of Dan Biggar in the 61st minute – a hit he owed his opposite number after Twickenham. Gave away a silly penalty a minute later to give England an easy out in their 22. Carried consistently if not remarkably. Feisty.
16. Elliot Dee
Came on for Jake Ball and played in the back row. Hard to rate.
17. Wyn Jones
Scrums got marginally better in the second half but realistically it was a case of surviving at all costs at scrum time. It’s a real worry area for Gatland.
18. Dillon Lewis
As above, was part of a Welsh scrum in survival mode. Got around the pitch well and arguably was Wales’ best scrummager.
19. Aaron Shingler
A key part of a crucial 79th-minute turnover. Offers height and size in what isn’t the biggest Welsh back row stable ever assembled.
20. Josh Navidi
Came on early for James Davies and was everywhere thereafter.
21. Aled Davies
Hard to rate with just 20 minutes on the pitch.
22. Jarrod Evans
Not on long enough to rate.
23. Owen Watkin