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Player Ratings: That winning feeling

OPINION: Rome witnessed a humdinger of an all-frills Italy-Ireland contest but this Wales-England encounter was no less engrossing in a very different way.

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Bruising physicality was the order of the day in Cardiff with restricted attacks on view but when it was all done and dusted, Steve Borthwick had the win he desired from his first away match as the English head coach.

Anthony Watson’s try had England 8-3 up at the break and despite that lead evaporating in the blink of a misplaced Max Malins try on the resumption, Kyle Sinckler’s score soon had the visitors back in front and there could be no quibbles when Lawrence went on to seal the deal.

Here are the England player ratings:

15. Freddie Steward – 9
Nerveless in nearly everything he did. Started lovely under the high ball, was the sweeper when an early Farrell kick was charged, and capped the opening period with the jersey-tug tackle that slowed Welsh momentum when they finally threatened in the 22 near the break. Powerless to prevent the Rees-Zammit score but that and a missed 68th-minute catch couldn’t blot his report card.

14. Max Malins – 7.5
Continued for the most part to show how wrong Eddie Jones was to shaft him last March. Made the crucial incision in the attack off scrum ball that engineered the opening England try and was nearly away a second time only to spill on the 10-metre when tackled. Caught rotten, though, by Rees-Zammit for the sole Welsh try.

13. Henry Slade – 7
You can see why Borthwick is such a fan of this fella at outside centre. Up against the debut-making Mason Grady, there were in general a couple of missed tackles but he provided the necessary clout to keep on making this shirt his own for the moment.

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12. Ollie Lawrence – 9
Another player with genuine grievances over how he was handled by Jones, he produced a towering display that was capped by his result-clinching try. Began with excellent ball retention in the lead-up to the Watson score and it was apt that he was the player to round off the win as it was his gathering of a loose ball at the other end that put an end to the final Welsh attack a few minutes earlier. Here to stay at 12.

11. Anthony Watson – 8
Back in the starting XV for the first time since March 2001, there was some initial hesitancy but that disappeared when he chased his how kick and ploughed into Leigh Halfpenny. Excellent finish for his try and there was further evidence of his lovely footwork after that. On the basis of this effort, he will keep the jersey for the next game versus France.

10. Owen Farrell – 7.5
Needed to show more in this role than he did versus the Italians, but his kicking at times left him down. Had an early punt charged down and left 10 points behind off the tee. Busy tackler in the opening period and showed good composure to ensure England eventually got this job done in the end.

9. Jack van Poortvliet – 8.5
Showed inexperience in getting his pocket picked at an early 22-metre breakdown but that error seemed to spur him onto heights that he hadn’t before reached in an England shirt. The fact that he played for 73 minutes highlighted how this was his best Test yet.

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1. Ellis Genge – 9
A gladiator who showed loads in his 55 minutes. Lovely footwork and he ended the opening half as his pack’s most prominent carrier. Up and down moments in the scrum before the break, but carried hard in ensuring England fired the all-important scoring riposte from Sinckler early in the second half.

2. Jamie George – 8
Played the whole 80 bar a few late seconds and was integral to his team’s victory. Carried hard, tackled regularly and there was even a glimpse of some deft handling.

3. Kyle Sinckler – 9
Another gladiator who made a telling difference. For years ago, he was labelled a bit head by Warren Gatland. Here, he was immensely poised and precise, his forceful presence evident in one first-half collision with Alun Wyn Jones and then his early second-half try. Gave everything he had in his 65 minutes.

4. Maro Itoje – 8.5
Is getting back to his disruptive best, leading his team’s tackle count and generally being a nuisance arond the field. Took a huge lineout catch in the lead-up to the Sinckler score.

5. Ollie Chessum – 7.5
He continued to justify why Borthwick fancies him ahead of Jonny Hill, his all-action contribution a joy to watch.

6. Lewis Ludlam – 8.5
Another in the Itoje nuisance mould, his tackle count was high and his value was seen over the ball in winning a penalty to deny Wales near the line towards the end of the first half. His energy and work rate the whole way through were admirable despite a few frustrating moments so as getting picked off near the line by Justin Tipuric.

7. Jack Willis – 7.5
The poster boy for the sudden momentum behind Borthwick looking for England to be able to pick overseas-based players, his best moment in the hour that he played was the 14th-minute penalty-winning turnover.

8. Alex Dombrandt – 8.5
The Welsh university graduate lasted 69 minutes and he played like he was lord of the manor. Multiple excellent moments and a canny knack of being in the right place at the right time.

Replacements:

16. Jack Walker – No Rating
Token appearance for the last few seconds.

17. Mako Vunipola – 7
Arrived with 25 minutes remaining and soon teams the scrum penalty that Farrell was unable to convert for an 18-10 lead. Gave up a no-release penalty soon after. Carried well otherwise.

18. Dan Cole – 7
Played the final 15 minutes, starting off with a Welsh scrum. Made a carry and managed some tackles.

19. Courtney Lawes – 7
Had a couple of carries in his 11 minutes but his most important act was clearing to ruck to free up the ball in the lead-up to the Lawrence score.

20. Ben Curry – 7.5
Shrugged off all the in, out and in he has done this month with England to be a worthy addition in the closing 20 minutes for Willis.

21. Alex Mitchell – 7.5
Given seven and a half minutes and put them to good use in quickening the pace.

22. Marcus Smith – NR
Negligible time off the round three bench.

23. Henry Arundell – NR
Same as Walker and Smith, he was part of the token 80th-minute change.

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