Three key things from Wales v England
SIX NATIONS ANALYSES: Wales stormed back in the second half to beat England 21-13 and keep alive their hopes of winning the Six Nations Grand Slam whilst dashing their opponents’ aspirations of a second one under Eddie Jones.
AFP picked out three key things from the match which also saw Wales post a national record 12th successive win:
Liam Williams said he and his Welsh teammates always knew they were a great side but if there was one player that stood out in both halves it was the full-back. With Leigh Halfpenny missing due to concussion Williams stepped up both in defence and attack, which more than made up for him not being able to kick at goal, a weapon that Halfpenny has in his locker.
The Saracens flyer was Wales’ most effective attacker in the first half but his coolness under the high ball that England had used to unnerve the Irish and then the French, made a decisive difference. It made their opponents look one dimensional in attack, two weeks after easily notching up 44 points against France.
The 27-year-old went close to a deserved try in the dying minutes – Jack Nowell’s excellent tackle denying him – and then a wonderful up and under which he also out-jumped the England defender and caught himself summed up a stupendous performance. With Halfpenny due to make his long-awaited comeback from concussion issues on Sunday it could be a very tough call for Gatland ahead of the Scotland game in a fortnight’s time.
Manu Tuilagi showed in one flash in the second-half what might have been as he cut a swathe through the Welsh defence only to be brought to ground. However, there was too little of that sort of bulldozing incisive running from the Leicester star, who found himself rarely with the ball in hand.
The 27-year-old may have had his head turned and focus distracted by the headlines during the week of a lucrative end of season move to big spenders Racing 92. He will need to refocus for the next clash with Italy – and also direct some of the fire he showed in grabbing Liam Williams round the throat into more productive ways on the pitch.
Scars of the past haunt England
The assured displays of the first two games made it look like England were back in the pomp of Eddie Jones’s first couple of years in charge but this display showed that the mental scars of last year’s poor series of results remain. Reasonably comfortable at half-time as their 10-3 lead gave them a good enough base to push on.
However, as Wales upped their performance so doubts crept into England with prop Kyle Sinckler’s dubious temperament cracking and having been a ferocious tackler in the first-half his sudden descent into niggly fouls sounded the alarms. Perhaps nothing symbolised this more than their captain and previously indomitable Owen Farrell kicking straight into touch. Maybe, fortunately, they have Italy next up although another tough test might have suited them better to see if they could weather the mental doubts that must have crept back in.