Six Nations

Wales floor England to win Triple Crown

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Callum Sheedy. (Photo by David Rogers - The RFU Collection via Getty Images)
Callum Sheedy. (Photo by David Rogers - The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Wales surged clear in the closing stages to beat England 40-24 in Cardiff on Saturday to clinch the Triple Crown and stay on course for a Six Nations Grand Slam.

Defeat all but ended reigning champions England's hopes of a successful title defence.

England, in a match where French referee Pascal Gauzere controversially allowed two of Wales' four tries to stand, battled back from 17-6 down to 24-24 with 18 minutes left.

But England indiscipline, a long-running problem for Eddie Jones' men, allowed Wales replacement Callum Sheedy to kick three penalties before Cory Hill's late try rounded off victory.

It was the latest chapter in a remarkable Wales turnaround after they won just three of 10 matches in 2020 under coach Wayne Pivac.

Wales led 17-14 at the break following two controversial tries scored by Josh Adams and Liam Williams.

England wing Anthony Watson's try, however, reduced the deficit before captain Owen Farrell's penalty on the stroke of half-time cut the gap to three points.

England, however, could have no complaints when scrum-half Kieran Hardy crossed for Wales' third try early in the second half.

But from 24-14 behind, England hit back with a Farrell penalty and a try by Ben Youngs just after the hour.

And with Farrell adding the conversion, England were level heading into the last quarter.

But Wales responded by finishing with their highest points score against arch-rivals England.

"I'm very, very pleased for the players," Pivac told the BBC.

"Some people will say it (luck) has been on our side the last three matches but you have to be in games to win them," the New Zealander added.

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones said: "I have played in a few games on the end of those decisions, it is up to the officials to make them."

Fellow skipper Farrell was equally wary of discussing Gauzere's display, saying "we will control what we can control".

He added: "I thought the intent was good but we can't let teams off that many times like we did today."

Wales' first try came while Farrell, at Gauzere's request, was still talking to England about their discipline.

And the build-up to their second appeared to feature a knock-on.

But Gauzere did not send an England player to the sin-bin, with Pivac saying they had been "lucky" in not being yellow-carded once.

'Can't argue with referee'

Meanwhile England counterpart Eddie Jones insisted: "We can't argue with the referee. The result's there and we've got to accept it.

"Wales were worthy winners."

England knew they had to win to maintain their title hopes after a shock opening loss to Scotland was followed by a comfortable victory over perennial strugglers Italy.

But they conceded three penalties in the opening four minutes, with Wales flyhalf Dan Biggar kicking the hosts into a 3-0 lead before centre Farrell equalised.

Wales then caught England cold in the 16th minute when Biggar, rather than going for goal from a penalty, opted for a quickly taken cross-kick caught by wing Adams for a try in the corner.

Farrell, however, was still in conversation with his side, including his wings, when Gauzere allowed Biggar to take the penalty.

But for all Farrell's protests, the try stood and Biggar kicked a difficult conversion.

There was more controversy over Wales' second try on the half hour when it appeared wing Louis Rees-Zammit had knocked-on before full-back Williams grounded the ball.

But Gauzere on the advice of his television match official, stood by his original decision to award a try on the grounds Rees-Zammit had knocked the ball backwards with his boot.

Biggar's conversion made it 17-6 but England hit back when wing Watson went over in the corner after the ball was worked quickly back from a driving maul.

England were caught napping in the second half as scrum-half Hardy burst clear for a try from his own quick tap penalty.

Sheedy, on as a replacement for Biggar, converted to put Wales two scores in front at 24-14.

But Farrell's fourth successful penalty and veteran scrum-half Ben Youngs' sniping break try left the game level.

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