England beat Wales 25-21 at Twickenham to secure the Triple Crown and move a step closer to the Six Nations championship and a first Grand Slam since 2003, the same year that Sir Clive Woodward led the team to the Rugby World Cup.
England went into the match as the only team left in the championship who had an 100 percent record in the tournament, although Wales were only a point behind after two wins and a draw. Playing at their own ground of Twickenham meant that England went into the match as favorites against a Wales team that had won the Six Nations twice, in 2012 and 2013, since England last managed to get their hands on the crown.
However, there is a palpable feeling in the England camp that the balance of power is shifting since they appointed legendary coach Eddie Jones to replace Stuart Lancaster after a disappointing World Cup campaign in 2015, where England became the first host nation to be knocked out in the first round of the tournament since it began. Eddie Jones had made a steady start as England’s Head Coach, winning all three of the games where he had been in charge, even if the performances could be described as solid rather than spectacular.
Eddie Jones is all smiles after England beat Wales in the Six Nations
[photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images][/caption]
Before the game, Jones spoke to the Daily Mail and urged England to make the most of the opportunity to win the Six Nations.
“This is a fantastic and exciting opportunity for these players to be great now. Greatness is defined by being able to do it on the big stage and the great thing about Saturday is that it’s a big stage. It’s so exciting, so we want players to stand up. Big players stand up and the players who are going to make it stand up.”
The atmosphere in the home of Rugby inspired England as they raced into a lead. By half-time a try from Anthony Watson and three penalties from Owen Farrell saw England extend their lead to 16-0. Wales put in a disjointed first half performance, conceding eight penalties and missing a whopping 19 tackles. Wales coach Warren Gatland was at a loss to explain the performance in the opening period.
“I said in the changing rooms I don’t know why we started so slowly. The players will have to answer that. It was very unlike us. We struggled and looked very tired. I don’t know why that is. We’re very disappointed with the first half performance.”
Soon after the restart, Farrell struck again to extend the England lead to 19-0 before Wales finally got off the mark and threatened to keep their Six Nations hopes alive. Dan Biggar scoring a knock down try. But hopes of a repeat of the famous collapse that England suffered against Wales during the World Cup last year were soon dispelled as Farrell kicked a further nine points to put England within touching distance of victory.
Man of the match Itoje running the ball for England
[photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images][/caption]
Wales did threaten to spoil the mood of the England fans by scoring two late tries through North and Faletau, but England hung on to secure a 25-21 victory and put themselves on the verge of a Grand Slam.
England might even win the Six Nations without having to touch a ball. France plays Scotland tomorrow and any result other than a France win will hand England the championship. Even if France wins, they will still need to beat England next week and turn around a 59-point difference to overhaul England. Given France’s recent poor form, England will start as big favorites to not just win the Six Nations, but to secure their first Grand Slam since 2003.
After England beat Wales, the smart money seems to be on the man with the midas touch, Eddie Jones, to guide England to the Six Nations in his first few months in charge.
[photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images]