CARDIFF – Cory Hill and Josh Adams scored second-half tries as record-breaking Wales came from behind to beat England 21-13 in the Six Nations in Cardiff on Saturday to stay on course for a Grand Slam.
It seemed England were on course for a clean sweep of their own when they led 13-9 early in the second half.
But Wales, in coach Warren Gatland’s final Six Nations in charge before the New Zealander stands down after the World Cup in Japan later this year, hit back in style.
Hill forced his way over for a try before wing Adams caught a pinpoint cross-kick from replacement fly-half Dan Biggar to go over for a late try that put the result beyond doubt.
Victory also saw Wales, who had been 16-0 behind at half-time in their tournament opener against France before winning 24-19, establish a new national record of 12 successive wins and break a mark that had stood since 1910.
England were seven points ahead at the break thanks to flanker Tom Curry’s converted try and a penalty from captain Owen Farrell, with Wales having to make do with Gareth Anscombe’s penalty.
But two more penalties from Anscombe early in the second half cut England’s advantage to just a point at 10-9.
Farrell nudged the visitors further ahead with a penalty to make it 13-9 only for Hill to put Wales in front for the first time with a 63rd minute score before Adams struck.
This was England’s first defeat in five Tests against Wales since Eddie Jones took over as coach after the 2015 World Cup.
🏴 21-13 🏴
Wales show just how much fight is in this team as they roar back to a magnificent triumph against a strong England side. #HWFN
With the Principality Stadium’s retractable roof open at England’s request, the visitors saw long-range kick specialist Elliot Daly push an early 48-metre effort wide of the left post.
England had scored tries inside the first three minutes of their last five Tests but in a gruelling series of early exchanges, the Welsh defence held firm.
Fly-half Anscombe, selected in place of proven goalkicker Biggar, declined a couple of early penalty shots at goal, preferring to kick for line-outs.
But from one such kick, England lock George Kruis stole possession off a Welsh throw-in.
England, with prop Kyle Sinckler, lock Courtney Lawes and Curry making plenty of tackles, went ahead in the 17th minute when they forced a scrum penalty inside Wales’ 22 to give fly-half Farrell a simple penalty chance before Anscombe replied from similarly close range for Wales.
The only try of an absorbing first half came in the 27th minute when a break across the line by centre Henry Slade took England, whose vocal fans were well represented in a capacity crowd, into Wales’ 22.
It seemed Wales were clearing the danger near their own line but Lawes stripped the ball off Tipuric in a ruck and Curry burst clear through an unguarded blindside for a breakaway try that Farrell duly converted.
When Wales did get close to England’s line the visitors’ defence held firm and speedy wing Jonny May showed there was more to their much-talked-about kicking game than grubbers behind the back-line with a superb chip and sprint down the left touchline to clear a potentially dangerous situation on the stroke of half-time.
But a scrappy start to the second half saw Sinckler concede two penalties which Anscombe kicked to cut England’s lead to just a point at 10-9.
Unsurprisingly, Jones then replaced Sinckler – labelled a ‘time-bomb’ in the build-up by Gatland – with Harry Williams rather than run the risk of a yellow card or worse for the Harlequins front-rower.
A previously composed England were rattled and Wales after a sustained period of possession sent Hill in for a 68th-minute try that Biggar, significantly, converted before Adams applied the finishing touch from a cross-kick, once again from Biggar.