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England 16-14 Wales: George Ford plays key part with two penalties as Steve Borthwick’s side come from behind to prevail in Six Nations clash

  • England came from behind to beat Wales in the Six Nations at Twickenham
  • George Ford scored two penalties, with England managing to see the game out

If Barry John were watching from the heavens, he would probably have switched off with a few minutes to spare. This was hardly rugby from the Gods. It was scrappy and tense and ended with an English victory that will not be remembered as one of the generational classics.

George Ford architected a second-half fightback, kicking and squeezing England to two wins from two in the Jamie George era. There were moments when Welsh fans were praying that Dan Biggar would swap his pitch-side punditry suit for a pair of boots, as the visitors coughed up their half-time lead. Their 12-year wait for a Six Nations victory at Twickenham continues.

In the end, this was just about a happy homecoming for the English. The standout player was Wales’s Tommy Reffell but his Ardie Savea-like interventions in attack and defence were not enough.

The sights, the smells and the sounds of Whitton Road remain the same on the walk down to the stadium. The annual pilgrimage past the fresh doughnut stalls and the street preachers. The queues outside the Cabbage Patch and the ticket touts travelled from east London to west. There was so much familiarity, yet so much uncertainty. There were 30 players across Saturday’s matchday squads who did not feature in the 2023 edition of this fixture. The mural of Owen Farrell now has a ghostly presence on the West Stand. A rivalry restarted.

Alex Mann would barely be recognised if he walked these streets but the Wales flanker, on his second cap, scored the try just before half-time to give Wales a two-score lead. It was a result of Welsh discipline, not conceding a single penalty in the first-half while England were on the receiving end of two yellow cards.

George Ford converts a penalty during the second half for England at Twickenham

George Ford converts a penalty during the second half for England at Twickenham

England centre Fraser Dingwall celebrates after scoring a try in the clash against Wales

England centre Fraser Dingwall celebrates after scoring a try in the clash against Wales

The England players celebrate after the final whistle while Wales' Nick Tompkins is dejected

The England players celebrate after the final whistle while Wales’ Nick Tompkins is dejected

From day one, England have talked about breathing life back into this old place. They extended their walk into the stadium and jogged around the perimeter of the pitch before kick-off. Small details that alone will do little to ease the scar tissue of just three victories here in 10 games. It came down to their performance on the pitch to get the pulse racing but it did not happen until the 72nd minute.

ENGLAND 16-14 WALES MATCH STATS 

England 16

Wales 14

England: Steward, Freeman, Slade, Dingwall, Daly, Ford, Mitchell, Marler, George, Stuart, Itoje, Chessum, Roots, Underhill, Earl

Replacements: Care, Genge, Dan, Cole, Coles, Cunningham-South, Chessum

Tries: Earl, Dingwall

Cons: 

Pens: Ford (2)

Wales: Winnett, Adams, North, Tompkins, Dyer, Lloyd, Williams, Thomas, Dee, Assiratti, Jenkins, Beard, Mann, Reffell, Wainwright 

Replacements: Grady, Evans, Hardy, Domachowski, Elias, Griffin, Rowlands, Basham 

Tries: Mann (pen)

Cons: Lloyd

Pens:

Referee: James Doleman 

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England had three visits to the Welsh 22 in the opening 10 minutes but left with zero points. New era, old problems. Ollie Chessum was sin-binned for a high shot on Keiron Assiratti and he was soon joined by Ethan Roots, who pulled down a maul as Wales were charging towards the line. Outcome: penalty try.

It took a moment of defensive brilliance to prevent Wales from moving further ahead. Maro Itoje caught rookie No10 Ioan Lloyd trying to run the ball from his own line and forced a turnover penalty. England opted for the scrum and Ben Earl charged from the base to score. However, George Ford was charged down before he had the chance to kick the conversion.

England held off a 25-phase attack from Wales. A feather in the cap of their new defensive coach Felix Jones, whose face appeared on the big screens as Joe Marler put in the hit to turn over possession. It was patient, disciplined and aggressive but in the final minute of the half, England were broken again. Reffell intervened with turnovers and offloads, before Mann’s try gave Wales their first half-time lead here in Six Nations history.

Wales only had to make just 37 tackles in the first half – compared to 117 by England – but rookie full-back Cameron Winnett was ready to intervene with a try-saving tackle on Elliot Daly early in the second half. Ford kicked the opening points of the third quarter and there were vulnerabilities in the Welsh scrum when they brought on rookie prop Archie Griffin, who has not started a Premiership match for Bath.

England won a penalty at the set-piece and kicked for the corner. They attacked through nine phases, before Daly offloaded to Fraser Dingwall whose try narrowed the deficit to one point. Ford took control of proceeding, targeting Wales with spiral bombs and a 50-22. The hosts began to take over the territory and, when Mason Grady was sin-binned for a deliberate knock on in the 72nd minute, England’s No10 finally kicked his side ahead. It was tense until the end, but both teams feel like they have plenty more to give. 

England's Jamie George acknowledges the crowd following his side's 16-14 victory

England’s Jamie George acknowledges the crowd following his side’s 16-14 victory

Ben Earl of England celebrates with team-mate Theo Dan during the win against Wales

Ben Earl of England celebrates with team-mate Theo Dan during the win against Wales

Alex Mann dives to score Wales' first try during their Six Nations encounter against England

Alex Mann dives to score Wales’ first try during their Six Nations encounter against England

Wales fly-half Ioan Lloyd converts his nation's first try as they took on England

Wales fly-half Ioan Lloyd converts his nation’s first try as they took on England

England head coach Steve Borthwick in discussion with the fourth official during his side's victory

England head coach Steve Borthwick in discussion with the fourth official during his side’s victory

 

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