England saw off Wales at Twickenham by scoring five tries in a 27-13 win on Sunday ahead of both sides’ respective tours to Australia and New Zealand.
Rob Evans’ try and two penalties from Dan Biggar handed Wales a 13-10 half-time advantage, despite England crossing twice through Luther Burrell and Anthony Watson.
But the match turned through two quick tries by Ben Youngs and Jack Clifford, the latter to the dismay of Wales after a possible knock-on was dismissed by the TMO, before Marland Yarde’s score gave England a sizeable lead which they never surrendered.
Concern was equally shared between both camps – Wales watching captain for the day Dan Lydiate go off in the first half with an injury, while George Ford stumbled his way through an unconvincing afternoon with missed kicks off the tee and poor execution. He finished with one from seven attempts.
Eddie Jones though will understandably be the happier coach heading to Australasia, especially after Joe Launchbury, the Man of the Match, and Clifford impressed, along with having watched his side finish with five tries.
Wales however on the basis of this outing look set for a torrid time in New Zealand.
Defence coach Shaun Edwards will have been seething at the sight of England getting behind the defensive line time and again and after that impressive opening they never settled into a groove. They also were scoreless in the second half.
Even stoking up the fire of the Anglo-Welsh rivalry wasn’t enough for this Test match to really be taken seriously. For that to happen both team sheets would need to be as close to first-choice as possible.
But with no Mako Vunipola, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Chris Robshaw, Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell or Jack Nowell for England – all starters when the Grand Slam was won in Paris – and no Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies or Luke Charteris for Wales, something was amiss. Biggar opting to kick for the corner rather than taking three points after 13 minutes was a good example.
Patience around the fringes from Wales led to the opening try, Evans flopping over off a short pass by Rhys Webb with Dan Biggar converting to put Wales ahead 7-0.
Clear rustiness in England’s attack then resulted in Jamie Roberts hacking the ball upfield and Biggar a couple of minutes later adding three more points.
England’s response might have been swift had Ford not missed a penalty well inside Welsh territory, keeping the gap at ten points, but after Wales were penalised again less than ten metres from the their line England opted for a maul, sucking in defenders before feeding Burrell to crash up through Biggar’s tackle attempt to score. Ford couldn’t convert with a straightforward enough attempt.
Line breaks weren’t an issue for either side but with England re-grouping after a Hallam Amos burst Wales butchered an almighty overlap, going instead to the one man on the left who was consequently bundled into touch.
A second penalty from Biggar stretched the gap to 13-5 but it was against the run of play, with England on top in the territory stakes and cutting Wales open only to then lose possession.
A score though was coming, and this time in little space near the touchline Ford and Joseph combined to release Watson, who broke the tackle of Liam Williams and despite losing his footing had the speed to get back up and finish after confirmation from the TMO.
Again, Ford’s conversion was wide, bringing his total of missed points for the day to seven.
Wales’ time in possession since that first score had been scarce but successive penalties against England presented them with another chance to attack through their rolling maul from five metres out, only for Teimana Harrison to emerge with the ball out the other side, England keeping the gap to 10-13 by half-time.
After an unconvincing first 40 minutes it was Youngs who put England ahead for the first time, scampering his way through the Welsh defence off a lineout for England’s third try.
Ford again missed but his nightmare was soon over, a 50-metre break from Clifford seeing the number eight outpace Scott Williams to go over and allowing Ford to convert from right out in front.
Wales were incensed, Biggar confronting referee Marius Mitrea after the TMO review ruled that Dan Cole hadn’t knocked on when the ball went loose before Clifford raced away, and awarded the score.
England now led 22-13 and after Yarde rounded Amos to finish another impressive English attack, the contest looked settled.
Handed an opportunity to increase the gap on the scoreboard from a penalty Ford missed again, his total of missed points rising to 14, but it had no impact on the result.
A surprisingly big win then for England, with new caps handed out to Harrison, Tommy Taylor, Ellis Genge and Ollie Devoto in front of a crowd of over 80,000.
Tries: Burrell, Watson, Youngs, Clifford, Yarde
Pen: Biggar 2
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jack Clifford, 7 James Haskell, 6 Teimana Harrison, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Matt Mullan
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ollie Devoto, 23 Elliot Daly
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Dan Lydiate (c), 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Scott Baldwin, Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Josh Turnbull, 20 James King, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Gareth Anscombe
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: John Lacey (Ireland), George Clancy (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)