Saturday afternoon’s game at Twickenham proved to be a classic arm wrestle between two nations looking to win this year’s championship.
England took their scores well in the first half and were lucky that every time Wales made serious gains into the English half, they gifted possession back to the hosts through errors.
Here are the main talking points from Twickenham.
5. A staunch English defence
Under Paul Gustard, England were never going to award Wales the same volume of space as Scotland did. George Ford put pressure on Wales’ half-backs early on, utilising his quick pace off the mark very well. Robshaw led the line speed brilliantly for England and is now instrumental for this English side.
Against Scotland, Wales ran the ball from deep, playing with the pace and accuracy a poor defence allows. Ahead of this fixture, England would have looked to nullify Wales’ ambitious Scarlets spine through their defensive leaders and they did exactly that.
4. Wales’ costly errors
Warren Gatland will be very disappointed in his side’s accuracy once in the opposition red zone. Although England pose a far greater threat than Scotland, the difference in accuracy from last week was a step backwards for the Welsh side.
Ambitious play by Wales earned them inroads into the English half but sustained pressure from Eddie Jones’ side resulted in Wales making costly errors that stunted their momentum at key times. Although Wales had a try disallowed, which would have brought them right into the game, their own composure let them down when looking to build scores.
3. Wales’ disallowed try
With such tight margins and a number of momentum swings within the game, the disallowed try in the first half is now a major point of contention. With both the referee and the TMO agreeing Evans hadn’t knocked the ball on, it seemed as though the try was going to be awarded with Anscombe looking to get his hands on the ball ahead of Watson.
However, the TMO ruled that there was no clear grounding of the ball. This try would have been invaluable to Wales who were looking for any kind of solid foothold in the game.
2. Dylan Hartley’s on-field contribution once again comes into question
A well behaved Dylan Hartley seems to be dependent on him staying away from the ball entirely, with the English captain having another quiet game. Jamie George’s impact off the bench was felt once again and it’s astounding that the Saracens hooker nearly has as many starting caps for the British and Irish Lions as he does for England.
Despite his quiet outing, Hartley is expected to once again captain the side when the tournament restarts, with his standards and example on the training paddock being instrumental for setting a tone come match day. However, on form alone, George must be scratching his head sitting on the bench.
1. A revamped athletic Welsh pack
Robin McBryde must be credited for the development of the Welsh pack. In recent games, Wales have evolved from their traditional Warrenball game plan and have adapted to a more ambitious one. The success of this evolution has yet to fully come to fruition, yet it’s right within their grasp. One of the main reasons why the transition towards this new style has been so seamless has been because of the revamped Welsh pack.
Wales’ forwards have adopted a running game with a new emphasis on improved handling, with forwards like Alun Wyn Jones and Samson Lee leading the way. The absence through injury of Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate could be a blessing in disguise, with Aaron Shingler, Cory Hill and Josh Navidi looking well-suited to the newly-adopted ambition.
Ross Moriarty has been incredible for Wales recently, earning himself a place on the Lions tour, however with this newly-adopted style, Taulupe Faletau has been the back rower that Wales are missing the most. His fitness and handling skills would be the final piece of the puzzle for McBryde’s pack.
Despite England failing to deliver on a complete performance, their incredible winning record continues.
Wales will be disappointed with a number of refereeing decisions but with an extra week to recover and regroup, Warren Gatland’s side will be all the more dangerous travelling to Dublin.