Wales 13-6 England: George North try helps Warren Gatland's men move top of world rankings
George North's 38th international try helps Welsh avenge 33-19 defeat last Sunday
By Ben Grounds
Last Updated: 17/08/19 10:15pm
Wales moved top of the world rankings as they avenged last Sunday's defeat to England with a hard-fought 13-6 win in Cardiff.
George North scored his 38th international try to add to a Dan Biggar penalty as Wales took advantage of an Anthony Watson sin-bin to take a 10-0 lead at the Principality Stadium.
After being soundly beaten just six days ago at Twickenham, this was a rousing response from Wales, who lost the game inside the opening 20 minutes last Sunday.
George Ford struck two penalties to reduce the deficit to four points, but good defensive work at the breakdown laid the foundation to a Welsh victory as Leigh Halfpenny sealed the win with a trademark penalty.
England suffered a late blow ahead of their World Cup warm-up clash against Wales in Cardiff after Ruaridh McConnochie was ruled out, with his colleague Watson replacing him - but England were not the only side to suffer a late change.
Liam Williams was withdrawn after suffering an unspecified injury during the warm-up, as Halfpenny was brought in from outside the 23 in his first Wales appearance since being concussed against Australia last November.
Wales controlled the opening quarter but were repeatedly kept at bay by England's aggressive defending. Ellis Genge produced a strong carry to sweep Eddie Jones' men out of trouble and, after going down several blind alleys, they built momentum once more with Joe Launchbury bursting into space.
It ultimately came to nothing and, although England were now fighting on equal terms, they trailed 3-1 on the penalty count. Wales drew first blood through a Biggar penalty and they received another boost when Josh Navidi, on for the HIA-bound James Davies, turned over Joe Cokanasiga at the breakdown.
Ford danced through the tightest of gaps but the defence rallied and, when Watson was shown a yellow for a deliberate knock-on, Wales reacted in an instant.
Two smart kicks by Biggar found first one wing in Josh Adams and then the other in North, who caught the ball and strolled over before the fly-half converted to establish a 10-0 lead.
England had scent of the line through a five-metre line-out, but Wales' defence was superb and they had to settle for a penalty by Ford.
The fly-half continued with the kicking duties even though World Cup captain Owen Farrell was now on the field, and that decision was rewarded through a second penalty.
Halfpenny could have made Wales' dwindling lead healthier, but his long-range penalty was off-target.
Watson set off on an electrifying run as England expertly worked the blindside through slick passing, but Wales scrambled in time.
Stuart Barnes' analysis
Wales identified the threat of England's driving line-up, they neutered the scrum and won the game as a result of their ability to do that.
Eddie Jones wanted his side to be brutal at the breakdown, but it was Wales who came out on top and they head to Turkey to continue their preparations with their tails up.
Jones will go away and feel his side have aerial issues in the back three and he will feel the balance of the back row does need a seven. Those are the things that I feel Jones will take from it.
Biggar was becoming a worry for Warren Gatland as he took a second blow to the same shoulder, but the tenacious Northampton playmaker fought on.
Halfpenny was accurate on his second attempt from near the halfway line and Wales' 13-6 lead survived intact until the final whistle despite a late assault by England.
Man of the match - Dan Biggar
There was an injury scare for Wales when Biggar took two blows to his left shoulder - he eventually went off five minutes from time - only six days after his fellow number 10 Gareth Anscombe suffered a World Cup-ending knee injury.
But this was a majestic performance from the No 10, whose kicking and decision-making made him the standout performer.
"We're obviously delighted to get the win as we didn't front up enough last week," he told Sky Sports. "It was just a huge defensive effort today and we played some good stuff. We should've been further ahead in the first half but I'm just pleased to get over the line.
"We dug it out as we have done so many years. A special thanks to JJ Williams for his comments this week as they've been really motivating for the team."
Head coach reaction
Warren Gatland: "No one panicked, everyone did their job. To see those players comfortable handling that was pretty good.
"That showed great character. Other teams are going to beat us but if you do you're going to have to play pretty well because they're not going to give it up easy."
Eddie Jones: "It was a perfect World Cup prep game up for us, absolutely perfect.
"We found out about the mentality of our young players, we found out we have a really good cohesiveness in the squad because they fought hard for each other in difficult situations, and we'll leave here with a smile on our face."