Wales' late surge sees them to Triple Crown against England
CARDIFF – 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.
100 caps for North
Wales kicked-off following back-to-back wins over Ireland and Scotland in matches where both of their opponents had a player sent off.
At 28 years and 320 days, Wales' George North surpassed Australia's Michael Hopper as the youngest player to reach a century of caps for his country.
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.
England conceded three penalties in the opening four minutes, with Wales fly-half Dan Biggar kicking the hosts into a 3-0 lead before centre Farrell levelled the scores.
But in the 16th minute, Wales caught England cold 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.
After awarding the penalty, however, Gauzere told Farrell to talk to England about their indiscipline.
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 before the England skipper's second penalty reduced Wales' lead.
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 after studying replays, Gauzere, on the advice of his television match official, stuck with his original decision to award a try on the grounds Rees-Zammit had knocked the ball backwards with his boot even though the wing's expression suggested he thought he had lost the ball forwards from his hands.
Biggar converted to make it 17-6.
England, however, hit back with their first meaningful attack when wing Watson went over in the corner after the ball was worked quickly back from a driving maul.
Farrell missed the conversion before landing a penalty, although he was off-target with a long-range penalty early in the second half in the behind closed doors clash at the Principality Stadium.
England were then caught napping as scrum-half Hardy burst clear for a try from his own quick tap penalty.
From the head coach 🏴 pic.twitter.com/P9hatzaciU— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) February 27, 2021
Sheedy, on as a replacement for Biggar, converted to put Wales two scores in front at 24-14.
Farrell's fourth successful penalty narrowed the gap.
England, were then all square with a fine try following a break by express wing Jonny May.
The forwards ensured possession was retained and veteran scrum-half Youngs made a sniping break for a try.
The match was still all square with 13 minutes left.
But England gave away three penalties, with repeat offender Maro Itoje one of those involved, and Sheedy duly punished them with a trio of successful kicks that saw Wales pull clear again.