England 29-18 Wales: Lessons Learned from Six Nations Clash
England took sweet revenge over Wales with a comprehensive display at Twickenham to seal the Triple Crown.
First-half tries from Danny Care and Luther Burrell helped put an off-colour Wales to the sword and keep England in the hunt for the championship.
It sets up the last weekend, with England travelling to Italy needing a win and hoping Ireland suffer defeat in France. It also keeps next year’s World Cup clash between these two in the balance in 2015.
Here’s what we learned.
Andy Farrell’s Defence Stands Up to Scrutiny
For the second match running, England were asked to defend phase after phase of attack late in the game.
They did it so effectively that they forced Wales into mistakes. On one occasion, they swiftly turned one of those errors into the sweeping counterattack that almost led to a second try for Luther Burrell.
Shipping just one try in two games against the two best sides in Europe is a statistic that defensive coach Andy Farrell will gladly put on his CV.
It is proof that the English rearguard is in rude health, helped in no small part by the contributions from the outstanding pair of locks, Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes.
Discipline Issue Returns to Haunt England
Gifting Wales 15 points through indiscipline in one half of rugby usually only ends in one outcome.
They handed another three points to Leigh Halfpenny on 57 minutes after Dylan Hartley took Toby Faletau out in the air.
Having just kicked a penalty of their own and seen a Welshman sent to the sin bin, it should have marked a period of dominance for England, but their indiscretion meant they allowed Wales to stay in the hunt.
Luckily for the home side, Wales began to catch the same disease. They were penalised almost immediately once again, and Owen Farrell spared English blushes.
It will be an issue for Stuart Lancaster to address, although England escaped thanks to their outstanding play with ball in hand.
England One-Up in World Cup Phoney War
The next time Wales play at Twickenham, it will be in their pool clash with England in the 2015 World Cup.
That knowledge gives this result more significance than just the fact that it handed the Triple Crown to England.
There will be one more acid test against the Welsh—back under the roof in Cardiff where they can finally lay the ghost of 2013 to rest.
For now, at least, England know they are hard to beat on home turf.
Twelvetrees Is the Best Twelve
Think back to the autumn and England’s clash with Australia. Billy Twelvetrees was put on the seat of his pants by his opposite number, and Australia scored a simple try.
Fast forward to this championship, and in particular his performance against Wales. All of sudden, the Gloucester man has almost become undroppable.
Twelvetrees displayed some neat footwork, executed a sublime grubber kick for his partner Luther Burrell’s try and defended like a man possessed.
He also provided a secondary kicking option outside Owen Farrell, which gave England options in their exit strategy.
With his partnership with Burrell proving so successful in this campaign, it will be hard for Manu Tuilagi to force his way back in.
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