England (16) 25

Try: Watson; Conversion: Farrell; Penalties: Farrell 6.

Wales (0) 21

Tries: Biggar, North, Faletau; Conversion: Biggar 2, Priestland.

England rugby
Anthony Watson helped into a 19-point half time lead before Wales rallied. Getty Images

England survived a valiant Wales comeback to take a step towards to claiming a first Six Nations title since 2011 and the grand slam after a thrilling game at Twickenham. The hosts led by 19 points at half time and by three scores with a quarter of an hour remaining but as Tomas Francis escaped being sent off, late tries from George North and Taulupe Faletau set up a grand stand finale.

Owen Farrell had earlier kicked 20 points and Anthony Watson's try had Eddie Jones' side on course for the triple crown but in similar fashion to how Stuart Lancaster's side collapsed in their World Cup pool match in September, Wales produced a fine response in the latter stages after Dan Cole was sin-binned. Replacement Manu Tuilagi tackled North into touch with Wales destined to claim the late win to give England the most memorable of victories.

Should France fail to beat Scotland on Sunday [13 March] then England will be crowned champions before their final game in Paris, but will still have the grand slam to play for in seven days time. Warren Gatland meanwhile, whose side's championship chances are now over, will be left rueing how close his side came after failing to muster a performance worthy of the occasion in the first hour.

Owen Farrell
Farrell kicked six penalties and a conversion to keep England ticking over. Getty Images

Six months on from their epic World Cup pool stage encounter when Welsh brilliance and England indecision contributed to the most thrilling of games the pair collided again amid an altogether different setting. Instead of being swamped by fear, the pair were leading the chase for the championship, while England had eyes on a first grand slam since 2003.

Though a clash between two northern hemisphere giants, the presence of Aussie Jones and Kiwi Gatland had contributed to a feisty build-up with the scrum at the centre of attention. It at least ensured that Craig Joubert, returning to Twickenham as a referee for the first time since the controversial Australia-Scotland World Cup quarter-final, would be kept busy.

Both teams were unchanged but welcomed back key players to their bench as Manu Tuilagi returned for the first time for 21 months after surgery and suspension. Wales meanwhile named Rhys Webb in their 23 after a foot injury on the eve of the World Cup ruled him out of the showcase tournament.

Craig Joubert
Joubert, on his return to Twickenham, was again a central figure. Getty Images

The hosts came out of the traps from the off and almost nicked the opening score, but Ben Youngs knocked on after a fumble in the ruck. Joubert was forced to judge two scrums in as many minutes and it was advantage Wales from five meters out as Dan Cole was penalised for the angle of his drive - an area the away side identified before the game.

Farrell kicked England ahead from close range but at the scrum Wales continued to dominate as a second penalty came from the set-piece. But Gatland's side remained under pressure from open play and Cole came agonisingly close to scoring but was unable to ground the ball according to the television match official Ben Skeen.

Saracens' Farrell doubled the lead with a penalty from the same attack and he added a third mid-way through the first half as Joubert continued to clamp down on Welsh ill-discipline. Coupled with Maro Itoje stealing two line-outs against the head on his second start it contributed to a dire opening period to a game in which they had barely featured.

Anthony Watson
Watson went over to cap a fine first half display from England. Getty Images

And England capped their authority with a deserved try eight minutes before the break. Itoje held off three tackles and allowed Mike Brown to feed Watson who stormed over for his 10th international try in 19 tests. The Saracens lock Itoje was enjoying a mesmeric first 40 minutes and he prevented Wales eating into the England lead when he won a penalty having disrupted a ruck inside the 10-meter line.

Nineteen tackles were missed by Wales in the first half and as Brown and Jack Nowell sidestepped there way through at the start of the second period the lead was duly extended by the boot of Farrell. Jamie Roberts' break allowed Wales a period of pressure inside the England half but despite successive penalties being given against Cole the home side survived without their lead being eaten into.

The respite was short-lived however as Wales got the break they badly needed when Biggar charged down a kick from his opposite number George Ford and touch down under the posts to give his side hope. Skipper Warburton was forced off with a blow to the head but it did little to disrupt Wales' rhythm as they continued the put pressure on the England line.

George North
North inspired a late Wales fightback after England were reduced to 14-men. Getty Images

Jones' side held firm and amid the reintroduction of Tuilagi - who emerged for the final 15 minutes alongside another injury returnee Webb - England pulled away to go a step closer to their first title for five years. Farrell stuck two penalties, the second with thanks to the ferocious breakdown work of George Kruis as they pulled three scores clear.

Cole was belatedly sin-binned for collapsing a maul and Tomas Francis escaped following him after he struck the Leicester prop in the face but Wales maintained the momentum as first North - after a fine exchange between Liam Williams and Gareth Davies - and then Faletau went over. The visitors were suddenly within four points.

But Tuilagi tackled North into touch in the final minute as the pressure ratcheted up on England but Wales were unable to complete what would have been a stunning comeback. Jones claimed the second piece of silverware - the triple crown - in his tenure but will be aware of the improvement required if they are end a 13-year wait for a grand slam.


England: 15. Mike Brown, Anthony Watson, 13. Jonathan Joseph, 12. Owen Farrell, 11. Jack Nowell, 10. George Ford, 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Joe Marler, 2. Dylan Hartley, 3. Dan Cole, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. George Kruis, 6. Chris Robshaw, 7. James Haskell, 8. Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17. Mako Vunipola, 18. Kieran Brookes, 19. Joe Launchbury, 20. Jack Clifford, 21. Danny Care, 22. Manu Tuilagi, 23. Elliot Daly.

Wales: 15. Liam Williams, 14. Alex Cuthbert, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Jamie Roberts, 11. George North, 10. Dan Biggar, 9. Gareth Davies; 1. Rob Evans, 2. Scott Baldwin, 3. Samson Lee, 4. Bradley Davies, 5. Alun Wyn Jones, 6. Dan Lydiate, 7. Sam Warburton (c), 8 Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: 16. Ken Owens, 17. Paul James, 18. Tomas Francis, 19. Luke Charteris, 20. Justin Tipuric, 21. Rhys Webb, 22. Rhys Priestland, 23. Gareth Anscombe.