- Danny Care and Luther Burrell tries defeat Wales at Twickenham
- Stuart Lancaster's side win Triple Crown with first defeat of Wales
England 29 Wales 18
England won a first Triple Crown since 2003 as first-half tries from Danny Care and Luther Burrell defeated stubborn Wales at Twickenham Stadium.
There was a steely resolve throughout Stuart Lancaster’s side, displaying solidity in defence and ambition in attack. Scoring two fine tries and only conceding points to the expert boot of Leigh Halfpenny – who kicked a perfect six from six penalties – proved that.
Wales’ Lions star was matched from the tee by England fly half Owen Farrell, who was assured in possession and kicked seven goals from seven attempts. Industry and intensity up front set the tone – the front row eventually getting the better of Wales – with the hosts intent on avenging the pain of a record defeat in Cardiff this time last year.
Photo: Getty Images
A measure of the significance of this win was that only three of the starting line-up had beaten Wales before and one of that trio, Care, got England up and running with a fine piece of play on six minutes.
It was the sort of quick-witted, spiky play you would expect from a scrum half at the top of his game. After hulking tight head David Wilson broke the line with a powerful break, England could not quite complete the overlap in the face of a defence which raced up, but the visitors were offside.
With the Wales defence sleeping, Care executed a smart tap-and-go penalty and dived over unopposed for a second try in successive home games, spreading his arms to the crowd at the ease of the score. Farrell slotted the simple conversion and England were away.
Towering lock Courtney Lawes – later named Man of the Match for display of controlled aggression – was carrying with verve in the opening exchanges but one such run handed Wales the chance to hit back after a double movement when he was held in a tackle by Rhys Webb. Halfpenny does not miss these and duly got Wales on the scoreboard on eight minutes.
England were comfortably leading the possession and territory statistics during the first half and were the better team in attack, beating 14 defenders to Wales’ five and gaining more than double the metres with ball in hand.
But indiscipline allowed Wales to stay in the game, risky business when Halfpenny is around. The full back slotted five penalties before the break, his second coming moments after Farrell had extended the lead back to seven points with a penalty of his own.
With the battle at the breakdown largely even, the kickers had the chance for more points after Rhys Webb did not roll following a tackle and Jack Nowell was forced to hold on on the deck. The gap stayed at four points until England’s attack delivered the second try of the game.
Photo: Getty Images
Farrell, supreme with the boot throughout, sent a raking kick 40 metres to pin Wales back in their 22 and Richard Hibbard badly over-threw from the resultant lineout. The ball was slightly loose going through hands but Jonny May beat three defenders with a typically rangy run when he finally got the ball out wide.
When possession was recycled, Twelevetrees dabbed a perfectly weighted grubber kick for the fast-arriving Burrell to expertly collect and dot down in the corner. The Northampton Saints celebrated his third Test try in just four games, more than justifying Lancaster's faith in him. Twickenham was still rocking when Farrell send the touchline conversion through the sticks to make England’s lead 20-9 on 33 minutes.
But England infringements again allowed Halfpenny to kick two penalties late in the half, the first after Dylan Hartley was off his feet at ruck and the second after May was offside chasing a clearing kick. For all England’s intensity in defence and desire in attack, the lead was only 20-15 at the break.
The game continued in a similar fashion in the second half, with intense passages of play punctuated by the brilliant boots of the rival kickers. Wales centre Roberts missed their best chance, putting boot to ball when there was an overlap out wide and a long pass would have sent North in down the left.
Farrell had earlier extended England’s lead to eight on 45, before a seemingly crucial moment on 56.
Wilson had Gethin Jenkins in trouble on a number of occasions and after conceding another penalty, referee Roman Poite has no choice but to show the loosehead yellow and present Farrell with a gift-wrapped chance to extend the lead to 11. The 22 year-old slotted the simple chance from in-front of the posts.
The tit-for-tat penalties continued just moments later, Hartley’s infringement on the deck followed by Jonathan Davies' similar offence. As expected Halfpenny and Farrell did rest, meaning the score was 29-18 as we went into a frantic final quarter.
Photo: Getty Images
Wales tried to force a way back into the game but were repelled by England’s defence and some excellent territorial kicking from Farrell and Brown, which pinned the visitors back in their own half.
In the style and scheme of the second half, there was a huge momentum shift with 10 minutes to play. May was turned over in contact but when Wales rumbled forwards in England's half from the resultant lineout, Ben Morgan expertly ripped the ball away. But it was not all defence from England as a stunning move nearly handed Burrell his second on 74 minutes.
Twelvetrees broke out of defence and the ball smoothly went through the hands of Burrell, Lawes and Nowell – the former duo executing out-of-the-back offloads – but the Northampton man was bundled into touch by a courageous Halfpenny cover-tackle.
As the clock ticked down, George Ford came on for a Test debut aged just 20 and when Cuthbert knocked-on, England celebrated a second successive home victory.
England are still in the hunt for the RBS 6 Nations title, but need to defeat Italy in Rome next Saturday and hope France can overturn Ireland later in the day. Ireland's points difference is +81, while England's is +32.
The win felt significant in the coaching box – this was the first time Lancaster’s side has defeated Wales and is the final time the two sides will meet at Twickenham Stadium before the Rugby World Cup 2015 pool match in 18 months.
England vs Wales teams
England: Brown, Nowell, Burrel, Twelvetrees, May, Farrell, Care, Marler, Hartley, Wilson, Launchbury, Lawes, Wood, Robshaw, Morgan.
Replacements: Goode for Brown (79), Ford for Farrell (79), Dickson for Care (79), M. Vunipola for Marler (64), Attwood for Launchbury (73), Johnson for Wood (79), Youngs for Hartley (69) Thomas for Wilson (73).
Wales: Halfpenny, Cuthbert, Davies, Roberts, North, Priestland, Webb, Jenkins, Hibbard, A. Jones, Lee, A. Jones, Lydiate, Warburton, Faletau.
Replacements: L. Williams for Halfpenny (76), Biggar for Priestland (62), James for Jenkins (64), Owens for Hibbard (55), R. Jones for A. Jones (67), Tipuric for Lydiate (76), Phillips for Webb (52), Coombs for Ball (73).
Sin Bin: Jenkins (53).
Ref: Romain Poite (France)