England got their Rugby World Cup warm-up schedule off to a steady start on Saturday, overcoming Wales 23-19 at Twickenham.
England got their Rugby World Cup warm-up schedule off to a steady start on Saturday, with a 23-19 win picked up against Wales at Twickenham.
Wales did outscore their hosts by three tries to two but a couple of drops from Jonny Wilkinson saw England win the first of this two-legged affair.
England's tries came via number eight James Haskell and debut centre Manu Tuilagi while visiting wing duo George North (2) and Shane Williams crossed for Warren Gatland's outfit.
These two will meet again in a week's time at the Millennium Stadium and Wales will want to start that game how they finished this one in London. Trailing by 20 points to 7 on 45 minutes, Wales then finally clicked into gear, with captain Sam Warburton leading by example on the openside.
However, England and Wales will be sweating over the fitness of Lewis Moody and Morgan Stoddart respectively, who were both helped off.
Wales were also forced to make a late change to their line-up after fly-half Stephen Jones, who was set to become his country's most-capped player, withdrew due to a calf injury. Rhys Priestland moved to 10 as Stoddart was given a promotion from bench duty.
England showed they wanted a victory first and then the performance early on as Wilkinson was told by captain Moody to knock over a long-range penalty, which he successfully did.
But despite being under pressure early on, Wales managed to claw their way back and in fact scored when North was on hand to finish. Priestland added the extras from wide out.
Then came a long period of English pressure at Twickenham as full-back Delon Armitage enjoyed a good run before a strong scrummage allowed Haskell to power his way over.
Wilkinson's conversion moved England into a 10-7 lead before he was wise enough to take points when on offer, with a smart drop-goal on 38 minutes extending the lead to six points.
It looked as though the Welsh were the ones needing the ten-minute rest to gather their thoughts. Yet that didn't help their cause upon the turnaround as Tigers centre Tuilagi hit a good line to power over on 44 minutes. England were 20-7 in the lead and looked clinical.
Wales number nine Mike Phillips almost caught England napping with a burst towards the line that saw him held up short but the ball was worked out to Williams who scored. Priestland missed the extras to leave England two scores in front at 20-12.
Wilkinson then landed his second drop-goal before Wales captain Warburton was denied a try by the video referee. North was not to be denied soon after but it was all too little too late.
Man-of-the-match: Simon Shaw was impressive early on and seems to have booked his spot on the plane (hopefully with extra leg room), but Sam Warburton was too good to overlook despite being on the losing team. He was a rock for Wales and is still only 22.
Tries: Haskell, Tuilagi
Con: Wilkinson 2
Drop: Wilkinson 2
Tries: North 2, Williams
Con: Priestland 2
England: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Matt Banahan, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Riki Flutey, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Danny Care, 8 James Haskell, 7 Lewis Moody (capt), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Lee Mears, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mouritz Botha, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Richard Wigglesworth, 21 Charlie Hodgson, 22 Charlie Sharples.
Wales: 15 Rhys Priestland, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (capt), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Brad Davies, 3 Craig Mitchell, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Lloyd Burns, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Luke Charteris, 19 Ryan Jones, 20 Tavis Knoyle, 21 Scott Williams, 22 Morgan Stoddart.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: tbc, Dave Changleng (Scotland)
Television match official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)