Guinness Six Nations
Wales 40-24 England
Callum Sheedy kicked three late penalties and Cory Hill bulldozed over for a try as Wales kept their Grand Slam hopes alive with a thrilling victory against England.
The visitors appeared favourites to win when Owen Farrell converted Ben Youngs’ try to level the score at 24-24 in the 62nd minute.
But Sheedy quickly snuffed out their hopes with three ice-cold kicks before Hill finished it by muscling his way over from a metre out to seal an emphatic victory.
After earlier wins against Ireland and Scotland, this victory also earned Wales the Triple Crown – but their sights will be set on an even greater prize ahead of fixtures with Italy and France next month.
Two wins there and Wales will lift their fifth Grand Slam in 16 years but supporters will hope neither match will be as nail-biting at this one.
Wales led 17-6 at one point thanks to tries from Josh Adams and Liam Williams but England kept hitting back, with Farrell’s four penalties and Anthony Watson’s score on the brink of half-time keeping them in touch.
Kieran Hardy put Wales clear again after the break with a slaloming run but Youngs’ try helped to level it before Sheedy put the hosts out of sight and Hill secured a bonus point.
The game started with a pair of celebrations as Wales’ George North became the youngest player to win 100 caps for his country, while England’s Elliot Daly marked his 50th.
But it soon developed into a frantic Test match and Wales won the first battle on the pitch, with England conceding three penalties in the first four minutes.
Dan Biggar converted one of them into the first points of the day from the tee but England hit back in the 12th minute as Farrell levelled the score with a penalty of his own.
England conceded too many penalties in their Round 1 defeat to Scotland and their count remained high here, with Maro Itoje and Farrell each giving one away to aid Wales’ first try of the game.
Biggar was in kicking range when Farrell was penalised and England re-grouped under the posts when the referee stopped the clock. However, they were caught out when the clock was re-started and Biggar lofted a perfectly-placed cross-field kick for the waiting Adams to score in the corner.
Biggar rubbed salt into England’s wound with an excellent conversion from tight on the left touchline, but the visitors responded well with Farrell’s second penalty.
England captain Farrell was visibly frustrated and Wales’ second try on the half-hour mark will have done little to improve his mood.
Wales, with a penalty advantage, moved the ball left and a kick behind England’s defence reached Louis Rees-Zammit.
The winger fumbled the ball while trying to take control but it fell perfectly for the supporting Williams, who pounced on it and slid over the line.
To add to the drama, the TMO and referee spent several minutes deciding if Rees-Zammit knocked it on but, after forensic examination, the try was awarded.
To complete an action-packed first half, England hit back and scored a try of their own, with Watson finishing neatly in the corner after a quick passing move. Farrell also kicked his third penalty of the game to cut Wales’ lead to 17-14.
That impressive end to the first half shifted the momentum England’s way and an early penalty gave them the change to level the score in the 44th minute, but Farrell tugged the kick wide from 47 metres.
Wales were also forced into a change at fly-half, with the injured Biggar replaced by Sheedy. But it was his half-back partner Hardy who had the next say.
Wales had possession inside England’s 22 when Jonny Hill conceded a penalty 15 metres out, and Hardy reacted by taking a quick tap-and-go penalty and waltzing through to score.
The conversion put Wales 24-14 ahead but again England quickly prevented them from getting too comfortable, as Farrell landed his fourth penalty of the day after the hosts were penalised for wheeling the scrum.
England gradually regained control of the match and they levelled the score just after the hour-mark, as scrum-half Youngs spotted a gap from just a few metres out and darted through to dot down, while Farrell landed the conversion.
Wales, ahead for so long, then took control again with three Sheedy penalties in eight minutes before Hill finished it with a rare try.
Wales may have steadily eased into the 2021 Six Nations but they now have momentum behind them and another Grand Slam in sight.
They head to Rome in two weeks time while England face another tough test in the form of France.