Wales take the 2021 Triple Crown with a bonus-point win after early controversy in Cardiff.
|Wales: (17) 40|
|Tries: Adams, L Williams, Hardy, Hill Cons: Biggar 2, Sheedy 2 Pens: Biggar, Sheedy 3|
|England (14) 24|
|Tries: Watson, B Youngs Cons: Farrell Pens: Farrell 4|
Controversial tries from Josh Adams and Liam Williams helped Wales open a 17-14 half-time lead in Cardiff, with Anthony Watson responding for England.
Kieran Hardy and Ben Youngs then swapped second-half tries as the teams went into the last 15 minutes level.
Callum Sheedy’s boot and a late try from Cory Hill moved Wales to within two games of a Grand Slam.
Wayne Pivac’s side now have trips to Italy and France on March 13 and March 20 respectively as they seek a second clean sweep in the past three tournaments.
England will point to the two first-half tries were awarded by French referee Pascal Gauzere, but will be also left to rue their continued indiscipline, with lock Maro Itoje especially guilty.
Adams’ score was allowed after a quickly taken tap penalty kick from Dan Biggar, while Williams crossed despite suggestions of a Louis Rees-Zammit knock-on in the build-up.
Those tries helped Wales record their highest points tally against England as they followed up victories against Ireland and Scotland.
Defending champions England have now lost two of their opening three matches.
Plenty has been written about the lack of crowds in stadiums during the coronavirus pandemic, but a Six Nations game between Wales and England – usually so vibrant – conjured perhaps the eeriest atmosphere yet.
Wales’ George North led the sides out as he became the youngest player to win 100 caps for his country in one of five changes from the side that beat Scotland.
In the minute’s silence to mark the stand against racism, half of the England squad took the knee while Wales kept their usual stance of remaining standing.
England set the tone by giving away three early penalties in the opening five minutes with Biggar slotting over the opening three points.
Itoje’s effective nuisance value almost paid off with an England try when he charged down a Hardy kick, but covering full-back Williams just beat his former Saracens team-mate to the touchdown.
Breaks from Elliot Daly and Youngs allowed Farrell to level the scores.
Refereeing decisions anger England
The first moment of controversy saw wing Adams cross to score after collecting a quick clever cross kick from a quickly taken Biggar penalty.
England captain Farrell argued vehemently there were water carriers on the field and his side had no chance to reset after being asked to speak to his team about their discipline.
But Gauzere batted away the complaints and allowed the score which Biggar converted.
It was, however, a special moment for Adams who was back in the starting side after serving a two-match suspension for breaking Covid-19 protocols.
Farrell reduced the deficit with his second penalty as Gauzere’s whistle continued to dominate proceedings.
The next disputed score occurred when Liam Williams crossed after Rees-Zammit fumbled possession from an Adams chip.
Gauzere gave an initial decision on the field of a try and a discussion with television match official Alex Ruiz and replays did not change his mind that Rees-Zammit had not knocked the ball on or was not in control of possession.
Biggar converted off the post and everything was going Wales’ way.
England responded almost immediately with a try from wing Watson from their first flowing move. Farrell missed the conversion, but slotted over a penalty to reduce the deficit to 17-14 at half-time.
Wales punish England indiscipline
A cagey second half saw both sides waiting for the other team to make a mistake and Wales flanker Josh Navidi was guilty of an error as he was penalised, but Farrell failed to level the scores.
Biggar left the field early in the second half after failing to shrug off a first-half knock with Callum Sheedy coming on.
Wales immediately lifted the tempo and Hardy took advantage of an off-guard England defence with a quickly taken penalty, after a clumsy offence from visiting lock Jonny Hill. Sheedy converted.
Farrell put England within a score with his third penalty before some encouraging ball-carrying bursts from the Vunipola brothers put the visitors on front foot before conceding another penalty.
It demonstrated England’s attacking intent and Youngs sniped over with Farrell converting to level the scores.
This shocked Wales into action with Sheedy’s incisive break and chip almost resulting in another try for Hardy, but he was denied and damaged his hamstring in the process.
Sheedy slotted over three late penalties to restore Wales’ advantage after more England indiscipline as the Bristol fly-half answered any doubts about his goal-kicking prowess at international level.
A late flurry saw Gloucester team-mates Jonny May and Rees-Zammit decide who was the fastest, but the Wales wing was just denied a try.
From the resulting scrum replacement lock Hill drove over to complete a bonus-point victory with Sheedy converting to complete a personal 13-point match defining display.
Man of the Match: Taulupe Faletau
Wales: L Williams; Rees-Zammit, North, J Davies, Adams; Biggar, Hardy; W Jones, Owens, Tomas Francis, Beard, AW Jones (capt), Navidi, Tipuric, Faletau.
Replacements: Sheedy for Biggar (45), Halaholo for J Davies (50), Hill for Beard (54), Dee for Owens (63), R Jones for W Jones (63), G Davies for Hardy (65), Brown for Francis (67), Botham for Navidi (70).
England: Daly; Watson, Slade, Farrell, May; Ford, Youngs; M Vunipola, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Hill, Wilson, Curry, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Ewels for Hill (58), Cowan-Dickie for George (60), Genge for M Vunipola (67), Robson for B Youngs (70), Earl for Wilson (70).
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Touch judges: Andrew Brace (Ireland) & Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Alex Ruiz (France)