Player Ratings: England
OPINION: Steve Borthwick pitched up at Twickenham looking to see his team win their opening two matches in the Six Nations for the first time since 2019 and draw a line under a poor run of form at rugby HQ where England had won just three of their last 10 home games. Player Ratings by Liam Heagney live from Twickenham.
They eventually achieved a 16-14 success after a compelling, proper game of rugby in which they trailed on the scoreboard for an eternity, shrugging off adversity and defiantly scrambling in defence before flourishing coming down the finishing straight.
The last time these sides met, their Nations Series game in London was remembered for how England battled to a win despite being down to 12 players for a second-half spell after a red and two yellow cards.
That was good practice for what unfolded here in the first half, two yellows reducing the hosts to 13. They managed to score a try through Ben Earl and cut the deficit to 5-7 in response to the penalty try that led to the sin-binning of Ethan Roots six minutes after Ollie Chessum also fell foul of referee James Doleman.
However, Wales generally looked more comfortable in possession and it showed just before the interval when Alex Mann finished off a lengthy period with a try that was converted for a 5-14 cushion at the break.
Three points was the deficit that England overcame last weekend in Rome to win by three, 27-24. How would they fare with being nine points down on this occasion? Brilliantly well.
A George Ford penalty soon reduced the gap to six; then came some brilliant last-ditch defending before scrum penalties got them back down the field for Fraser Dingwall’s 63rd-minute unconverted try which left a point in it.
Eight minutes later, Mason Grady was seeing yellow for a deliberate knock-on and Ford was kicking the winning penalty points off the tee, which was quite a relief as a narrow defeat would have put his no-kick first-half conversation gaffe into sharp focus.
Here are the England player ratings:
15. Freddie Steward – 7.5
Looked to have set the tone with his first-minute break through the heart of the Welsh defence, but it wasn’t to be with England eventually going behind. Enjoyed a splendid second half, though, his aerial supremacy especially pleasing in an epic team comeback.
14. Tommy Freeman – 6
Unable to follow up his livewire Stadio Olimpico effort with another eye-catching display. Still had some good moments, namely his scramble defence.
13. Henry Slade – 7.5
Would have had two tries in the opening minutes if he wasn’t beaten to a crosskick by Rio Dyer and then didn’t fumble at full tilt when Alex Mitchell teed him up with a pass near the line. Helped his team dig in after that to get the result.
12. Fraser Dingwall – 7
Needed a big one after too many missed round-one tackles but his first half was pockmarked by more misses. That would have left fans feeling a fit Ollie Lawrence would be needed versus Scotland in round three, but the Test rookie was excellent when scoring his all-important try in the corner. Quite the redemption!
11. Elliot Daly – 7
Another who had a decent opening moment, rising a gallop and threading a grubber kick through into the 22, but then faded before rising to the occasion in the second period. Very nearly in at the corner shortly after the restart before his fabulous assist did get Dingwall in there much later.
10. George Ford – 8
Could have been the bogeyman for not getting his conversion kick away off the tee in the opening half, but he was brilliantly defensively and excellent in helping to the tide. His slick pass ultimately tempted Grady to see yellow and he then applied the winning points. Sweet.
9. Alex Mitchell – 7
The scorer of the crucial try in Rome, he wasn’t comfortable here in the opening half but was much better after the interval and his surge near the line was important in initially pressurising the Welsh defence in the engineering of the Dingwall try.
1. Joe Marler – 6
Didn’t shirk his tackle load with England under the first-half pump and had a lively second-half start before exiting on 52 minutes.
2. Jamie George – 7.5
Another who tackled loads and that defiance was eventually enough to inspiringly dig his team out of a huge hole. Left with his head held high on 72 minutes with England having just gone ahead for the first time.
3. Will Stuart – 5
Penalised for the scrum penalty when England went with just seven players in the lead-up to the first Welsh try, he then contributed to the hole that the visitors burst through for their second. Another subbed off 12 minutes into the second half.
4. Maro Itoje – 7.5
Adversity versus Wales is the sort of chemistry that somehow fires him up. Look at his maul stoppage that gave England the 10th-minute scrum that should have put Slade in. Then lap up his scragging of Ioan Lloyd with England down to 13 to force another turnover that led to the Earl score. Integral to the fightback.
5. Ollie Chessum – 7
Carded on 12 minutes after his shoulder collided with the head of the Welsh prop Keiron Assiratti; then needed an HIA after colliding with Dyer shortly after his return to play. However, his grunt and nuisance were invaluable in the second half.
6. Ethan Roots – 6.5
The sponsor’s player of the match on debut last week, the going here was way tougher here. His introduction was Tommy Reffell ripping him from the ball about five metres out from the Welsh line early on. Was then carded by Doleman for collapsing the maul which cost a penalty try. Suffered from a lack of ball but his physicality helped England find their way back and be ahead by the time he was subbed.
7. Sam Underhill – 7.5
Subdued in Rome with an inexplicably low tackle count, it was in double figures here by the interval as he led the resistance. Continued that way after the break and can be pleased with his 64 minutes.
8. Ben Earl – 8
Moved like a wrecking ball off the back of the scrum to get England on the scoreboard and continued on after that bringing the fight to Wales. The pick of the England forwards.
16. Theo Dan – No rating
Given the closing minutes with England defending the lead.
17. Ellis Genge – 7
England needed a hurry up when he was introduced on 52 and he gave them that and more. A very energetic effort.
18. Dan Cole – 7
Another whose introduction from the bench was critical to scrum and breakdown.
19. Alex Coles – 6.5
Seen in the 24th minute with Chessum needed treatment, it was his intervention that put a stop to a 25-phase Welsh move. Exited on 33 but returned for the last seven minutes in place of Roots to see the win home.
20. Chandler Cunningham-South – 7
Played the last 16 minutes and, just like last weekend, he was vital to England getting the job done.
21. Danny Care – 6.5
Arrived with 11 minutes left and England down by a point. Provided timely energy.
22. Fin Smith – Unused
23. Immanuel Feyi-Waboso – Unused