England 12-6 Wales: Jonny May scores twice as Eddie Jones' side continue winning start
By Robert Mulhern
Last Updated: 11/02/18 12:30am
Jonny May scored his first Six Nations tries as a powerful opening quarter set England on their way to a 12-6 win over Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.
The hosts got off to the best possible start scoring after three minutes and then building a 12-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.
But they failed to score again as inaccurate Wales grew increasingly into the contest and forged gaps in the home defence through the second half that should have yielded tries.
That these opportunities weren't taken was as much to do with the stoicism of the home defence as a Welsh side that were a hair's breadth from a Scott Williams' try in the corner - with the game having moved into the fourth quarter.
They had earlier been denied in the first half when the TMO ruled out a try by Gareth Anscombe, after it appeared the full-back had applied enough pressure, ahead of Anthony Watson, to constitute a grounding.
These marginal inaccuracies, and England's more clinical execution by contrast, was one of the big differences on a night when Owen Farrell and Mike Brown excelled.
Wales finished with the momentum and dominated possession but they found an England defence in utterly defiant mood.
Despite the win, England slip to second in the Six Nations table on points difference after Ireland's victory over Italy, while Wales fall to third.
Wales received a blow before kick-off when Leigh Halfpenny was forced to withdraw with a foot infection - Anscombe coming in to replace the British and Irish Lion who scored 24 points against Scotland last week.
The visitors received an early sucker punch when Patchell was beaten to a high ball and Farrell spotted space behind the Welsh defence, kicking through with May winning the footrace to score.
Before Farrell started turning the screw with his boot, Rhys Patchell missed a penalty from 45 metres but at the same time, Wales were proving more than a match for England in the lineout where early possession steals robbed the hosts of territory.
But England's defence often made Wales' attacks appear ponderous, with Courtney Lawes et al delivering on their pre-match promise to hunt Wales down, thwarting the visitors with tigerish hits.
If England appeared to be winning the battle of the defences, then there was no doubt they were in the ascendancy going forward through the first 40 minutes.
They carried with the kind of intensity that allowed the Welsh defence minimal time to settle, and a period of pressure led to a break by Farrell, who then sent a looping pass from the next play into the arms of Joe Launchbury.
Hugging the touchline, the lock forward used his bulk to tie up Josh Adams and Rhys Patchell, before lobbing a pass back inside for May to cross for his second.
Farrell converted and England were good value for their 12-0 lead.
Wales could have no argument over the score, but that wasn't the case in the decision to disallow that try by Anscombe.
Video replays confirmed that the full-back got his hand on the ball in the try area after Steff Evans knocked a cross kick from Patchell into the try area with his knee. But Kiwi TMO Glenn Watson ruled no try, and the debate looks set to rage.
Regardless, it came to nothing and Wales' reward of a converted penalty was scant consolation.
In the second half, England resumed with the momentum they built through the first, and Wales' misfiring lineout aided their cause, before Aaron Shingler made a surging run through the England defence.
But he opted to kick instead of linking out of contact and the ball fell into the grasp of the covering Farrell.
This inaccuracy from the boot became a feature of Wales' play in the third quarter, as failure to find touch and some casual looking clearances put Wales in all sorts of trouble.
But they rallied, and the entrance of George North signalled a shift in power. He and the increasingly influential Anscombe - who moved to fly-half following the substitution of Patchell - started to capitalise on the fractured contest.
And it was Anscombe who set in motion one of the moments of the match after he collected a long Farrell kick to beat three defenders and set Wales down the touchline before Williams was released to the line.
The centre dived early, but agonisingly for Wales, a brilliant covering tackle from Sam Underhill carried him into touch.
Wales came again thereafter and following another broken field play, a rip by Justin Tipuric set in motion a Wales attack that freed North, who set up a ruck that in turn sent Anscombe searing through the middle.
But England fouled at the breakdown and were lucky not to suffer a yellow card. Anscombe converted the penalty with three minutes left, with Wales in need of two scores.
That proved their best chance against an England side that had just enough stubbornness to withstand a final Welsh surge.
England will be enthused by the manner of their start and the individual performances posted by Mike Brown and Owen Farrell.
Brown was a rock in defence and a talismanic presence as Wales probed for weaknesses. They didn't find many in the air and on the ground.
Brown also scored some notable turnovers, while Farrell showcased the breadth of his kicking ability out of hand, creating huge problems for Wales.
England coughed up the kind of penalties that would have been punished had Leigh Halfpenny been on the field, and from a position of control they drifted out of a contest that Wales increasingly grew into.
They will be grateful for Wales' lack of accuracy and the decision making of both Aaron Shingler and Scott Williams when well placed.