Wales 30 England 3 - Title delight for Howley's boys
WALES retained their Six Nations title in style by smashing Grand Slam-chasing England in sensational, record-breaking style at the Millennium Stadium.
After leading 9-3 at the break, Rob Howley’s side scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to record their biggest winning margin against their fiercest foes, beating the 25-0 victory from 1905.
The stunning success ensured that the Six Nations trophy remains in Cardiff and drew them level with England in terms of championship successes AND in the head-to-head battles between the nations.
It was a simply magnificent performance to make a pretty good England side – who had dealt with Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy – look like mugs.
In the end it did not matter that Stuart Lancaster’s side spluttered to victory against the Azzurri six days earlier – Howley’s charges were so dominant in the second half that they could have chased down any target.
They ran England off their feet and when the visitors went on the attack they ran into a red brick wall, Wales keeping a fourth clean sheet on the spin to earn a grin from defence guru Shaun Edwards.
It was a game worthy of the hype and, in the end, a remarkable mismatch.
Wales led 9-3 at the break but while there were no tries it was not a half in keeping with the dour tournament.
It was breathless, high-tempo stuff with some shuddering hits and both sides having their chances and spells of pressure.
Wales, with total scrum dominance, just about deserved the lead and it was a miracle that both defences, no doubt with lungs burning, stood firm.
Leigh Halfpenny booted Wales into a 6-0 lead before Owen Farrell got the visitors on the scoreboard with a three-pointer of his own, his kick going in off the right upright.
The home full-back responded with another penalty and Farrell failed with his own long-range effort approaching the half hour.
The home crowd were on their feet when George North raced clear after Dan Biggar intercepted inside the Welsh 22 but the giant winger was felled by a marvellous Mike Brown tap tackle.
And it was Wales that went on the hunt with the last play only for Biggar’s drop goal from deep to go agonisingly to the left of the sticks, leaving Howley’s side outside of the magic seven-point advantage.
The start of the second half was (initially at least) a more cagey affair, Wales still having scrimmaging dominance but England defending stoutly.
And the visitors prevented their whitewash from being breached despite wave upon wave of attacks on their line, although a penalty did enable Halfpenny to stretch the lead to 12-3.
That meant England had to chase the game – and Wales’ suffocating defence pounced to put them in total command.
A steal by Ken Owens on halfway was worked out to the right to wing Alex Cuthbert – the man who sealed the Grand Slam in 2012 – and he galloped over to make it 17-3.
Biggar slotted over a drop goal to take more out of the weary English legs and then it was game over in the 68th minute.
A stunning attack was started by Sam Warburton and then Roberts, Davies and Tipuric sent Cuthbert over for his second, and the title clincher.
It didn’t end there – it got even better when Biggar slotted over the conversion and a penalty to rewrite the record books.
It left England shellshocked, starting into space while Gethin Jenkins and Ryan Jones lifted the trophy in front of a ecstatic Millennium Stadium.
Wales: L Halfpenny, A Cuthbert, J Davies, J Roberts (S Williams 76), G North, D Biggar (J Hook 76), M Phillips (L Williams 77), G Jenkins (captain, P James 61), R Hibbard (K Owens 52), A Jones (S Andrews 73), A-W Jones, I Evans (A Coombs 70), S Warburton (A Shingler 76), J Tipuric, T Faletau.
Scorers: tries – A Cuthbert (2); conversions – D Biggar; penalties – L Halfpenny (4), D Biggar; drop goals – D Biggar
England: A Goode (B Twelvetrees 66), C Ashton, M Tuilagi, B Barritt, M Brown, O Farrell (T Flood 67), B Youngs (D Care 66), J Marler (M Vunipola 44), T Youngs (D Hartley 52), D Cole (D Wilson 72), J Launchbury (C Lawes 52), G Parling, T Croft, C Robshaw, T Wood (J Haskell 67).
Scorers: penalty – O Farrell
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)