Elliot Daly’s late try rescued England to maintain their unbeaten record under Eddie Jones and claim a dramatic RBS 6 Nations victory over Wales in Cardiff 21-16.
The Wasps centre - impressing on the wing for England in this year’s Championship - burst clear down the left for the decisive score as England mounted an impressive second-half fightback to win 21-16. Liam Williams’ try and 11 points from the boot of Leigh Halfpenny looked like it might be enough to end England’s unbeaten run at 15 games as they led 16-11 with less than a quarter of the game remaining.
But the 2016 Grand Slam champions - who scored an early try through Ben Youngs - gradually upped the ante in the second period as the boot of Owen Farrell kept them in touch. The introduction of the replacements - as it had done against France the week before - made a real difference for the Red Rose and it was Daly who went over in the left corner, well fed by Farrell when Jonathan Davies failed to find touch with a clearing kick.
Farrell also slotted the extras for the good measure and the Red Rose winning run is now at 16 with Italy next to come to Twickenham in the third round of games. George North failed to recover from his dead leg in time and missed out for the hosts who were looking to end a run of four defeats in their last five clashes with the old enemy.
And it was Wales who started the stronger, Halfpenny slotting a penalty when Courtney Lawes was pinged in only the second minute for not rolling away. The breakdown was always going to be a key battleground. And twice in the first ten minutes England were turned over in the Welsh 22 as the back-row experience on the home side appeared to tell.
But Farrell slotted a penalty to level up matters while Daly sent a booming long-range effort narrowly wide as England re-gathered their composure. And once settled, they then struck with a quite fabulous team try, showing magnificent ball retention with runners coming from all angles over 26 phases - one fine Daly offload a particular highlight - to batter the Welsh line before the dam eventually broke as Youngs squirmed over from close range.
Farrell missed with the extras however and when Joe Launchbury was this pinged in the ruck Halfpenny’s second penalty reduced England’s lead to 8-6 after the first quarter. The rest of the first half was all Wales, the home side bashing away at the England line - and twice turning down kickable penalties - in search of their first try of the evening.
Rhys Webb was denied by the TMO and just when it looked like their chance had gone, they struck with nearly the final play of the half. Off the back of a scrum Webb released Williams, the Welshman cutting a fine line off his left wing to go over under the posts and grab them a deserved try.
Halfpenny made no mistake with the extras and at the break the home side led 13-8. England needed a response in the second half but they looked rattled, Mike Brown kicked uncharacteristically out on the full while Jonathan Joseph threw a pass directly into touch.
But with replacements James Haskell and Jamie George on England won a kickable penalty when Wales went in at the side and Farrell made no mistake to trim the lead. Halfpenny responded almost immediately with Wales’ first foray of the second half and at 16-11 heading into the final quarter, Jones’ side faced the biggest test of their unbeaten run.
England kept coming though, Ben Te'o thrust into proceedings, but after an extended spell on the Welsh line a fine Biggar interception relieved the pressure. But back came the defending Grand Slam champions, with the scrum now becoming a real weapon, and when Farrell slotted another penalty it was 16-14 heading into the final ten minutes. Te'o’s fine line break then put England back on the front foot as Welsh defenders began to tire. A penalty would have won it but in the end it was Daly, sneaking round Alex Cuthbert in the left corner, that did the damage.