England strike early to defeat Wales – 6 Nations

NatWest 6 Nations

England 12-6 Wales 

Jonny May’s first-ever 6 Nations tries proved enough as England held on to down Wales and keep their bid for an historic hat-trick of Championships on track.

May went over twice in the first 20 minutes in an otherwise hard-fought and bruising encounter played in miserable conditions at Twickenham.

Wales battled hard and deserved more than just the Rhys Patchell and Gareth Anscombe penalties they had to show for their efforts.

The impressive Anscombe – a late call-up for the injured Leigh Halfpenny – was cruelly denied a first-half try by the TMO while only a fantastic covering tackle from Sam Underhill kept Scott Williams out in the second.

But it was England who held on in this low-scoring affair – there were no points between the 24th and 76thminutes – to make it two wins from two.

Eddie Jones remains unbeaten at Twickenham and his side are level at the top of the standings with the also unbeaten Ireland – although Joe Schmidt’s side are top on points difference.

England are on a three-match winning run against Wales and they came flying out the blocks in a wet south west London.

Anthony Watson spilled the ball from the kick off, but made up for it by beating Patchell to a high ball and knocking it back to Owen Farrell and the Saracens man sent a perfect kick to the corner for the quicksilver May to slide on for the game’s first try after only two minutes and 22 seconds.

Farrell could not add the extras however while Patchell – after Halfpenny’s late withdrawal – also missed a long-range penalty.

But it was England, with Farrell and George Ford again dovetailing nicely, that were on top and as the pressure mounted a second try seemed inevitable.

The Welsh defence held firm for phase after phase until Farrell flung it wide to the left and Joe Launchbury produced a sublime offload before being pushed into touch and May was the gleeful recipient to go over for his second.

This time Farrell made no mistake with the conversion and England were 12-0 to the good after the first quarter.

Owen Farrell looks to offload under pressure from Gareth Anscombe.

The rest of the half was scrappy to say the least, man of the match Mike Brown near flawless under a Welsh kicking bombardment while Maro Itoje and Alun Wyn Jones – British & Irish Lions teammates last summer – were getting re-acquainted.

Anscombe thought he had brought Wales back into it when was quickest to a loose ball following a clever Patchell kick but the TMO ruled he had not applied enough downward pressure.

Patchell did slot a penalty however and while Wales grew into the half, it was the hosts who went in 12-3 in front.

Sam Simmonds was forced to withdraw at half time meaning Underhill was introduced but it was England who started the brighter – Watson going close down the right after a half break from Jonathan Joseph.

That was Watson’s last involvement however, the winger limping off to be replaced by Jack Nowell and Wales appeared to have weathered the storm.

Aaron Shingler went charging into the clear soon after and the Welsh kept coming, George North introduced for Patchell before the hour marking prompting a re-shuffle in the backs as Josh Adams went to full-back with Anscombe promoted to fly-half.

And it was Anscombe who was really beginning to influence things as the hour mark came and went.

Only an astonishing cover tackle from Underhill denied Williams in the left corner after Anscombe and then North had worked him clear down the left.

England were now on the back foot, but the kicking from hand of Ford continued to relieve pressure as Eddie Jones turned to his replacements bench.

Richard Wigglesworth was on for Danny Care while Ben Te’o came on for Ford, moving Farrell to fly-half, but still Wales kept coming – North and Anscombe once more to the fore in outstanding individual cameos.

Anscombe’s late penalty trimmed the lead to only six points but that proved enough as England held on and are still on track to become the first-ever team to win three Championships on the spin.

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