IT won't matter a jot when the sides meet at the World Cup but that won't dull the pain for Wales after being beaten by England in a tense Six Nations opener.

Stuart Lancaster's side went to pieces in their famous 2013 humbling at the Millennium Stadium yet this time they came on strong to turn a 16-8 half-time deficit into a deserved win.

It was everything that the tournament organisers would have hoped for when pencilling in a Friday night curtain-raiser – tense, brutal and tight.

Yet it was not what Warren Gatland would have wanted after a game in which Wales barely fired a shot in attack.

Two years ago they started sluggishly with a defeat to Ireland before coming strong to take the title, they aim to repeat that effort but suddenly next weekend's trip to Murrayfield to face Vern Cotter's rejuvenated Scotland looks an awful lot more tricky.

September's showdown at Twickenham will still be a 50/50 game between two pretty evenly-matched sides yet Warburton & Co have plenty of work to do as they strive to add some verve to their attacking game.

England had the nudge in the tight and set piece, while Jonathan Joseph look sharp in midfield but they made too many errors in the first half.

Wales didn't really have to do a great deal to earn an eight-point lead at the break, they lived off the mistakes of their visitors and then felt confident that their defence would see them home. It wouldn't.

In Sam Warburton, Taulupe Faletau and Alun Wyn Jones Wales had breakdown threats yet it was the visitors who bossed the second half against hosts who failed to do anything of note after the resumption.

It was perfect ending for England following a shaky start in which they came out to boos after captain Chris Robshaw had been made to wait in the tunnel – a reverse Martin Johnson in terms of pre-match protocol – before Sam Warburton came out ahead of his teammates on his 50th cap.

The light show and flames before the anthems; manufactured maybe, but it was pure theatre and had echoes of 2013.

That famous encounter was actually nip and tuck until the second half yet this time Wales came flying out of the blocks.

Halfpenny punished a first-minute offence and then brilliance by Taulupe Faletau from a retreating scrum – something he had been used to at Newport Gwent Dragons before this year – exploited woeful English defence.

The number eight brushed off a poor James Haskell tackle and offloaded for scrum-half Rhys Webb to canter over thanks to Jonny May coming off his wing.

Halfpenny converted and it was 10-0 before 10 minutes had gone.

But England, to their great credit, showed resolve and right winger Anthony Watson finished smartly from full-back Mike Brown's grubber to make it 10-5.

It was engrossing, albeit manic, fare.

Halfpenny and George Ford traded three-pointers before a rare occurrence, a miss by the Welsh full-back from in front of the sticks.

But Wales did go to their changing room with a 16-8 advantage when their most sustained period of attacking play ending with a sweet 40-metre Dan Biggar drop goal with the clock in the red.

Yet England came firing back with a superb score with Joseph dancing over from the 20th phase.

It's easy to point the finger at Dan Biggar, George North and Rhys Webb for failing to stop the novice yet the footwork was fantastic for a seven-pointer that put the game back in the balance.

Suddenly it was 'Swing Low' rather than 'Hymns and Arias', although visiting voices didn't get the chance to toast a first lead when Ford was wide with a long-range penalty with half an hour left.

It remained tense and tight as the game entered the final quarter and Wales' right post took an almighty hit when Haskell powered through and was stopped by a combination of Faletau, Alex Cuthbert and the sponsors' padding.

However, the Wales speedster failed to roll away and not only presented Ford with a simple three points but headed to the sin bin.

At 18-16 down Gatland's 14 men had to find some inspiration after being on the back foot since the resumption.

Yet it was England who were close to sealing the win in the 72nd minute only for Brown to just fail to gather the ball after centre Luther Burrell's strong charge.

And they were denied again in the 75th minute when a score by lock Dave Attwood was chalked off for obstruction earlier in the move – at 18-16 Wales were still alive.

Ford ensured that the visitors would have to score a try with a penalty with two minute left but that never looked likely.

Wales: L Halfpenny, A Cuthbert, J Davies, J Roberts, G North (L Williams 30- 38), D Biggar, R Webb (M Phillips 68), G Jenkins (P James 59), R Hibbard, S Lee (A Jarvis 71), J Ball (L Charteris 68), A W Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton (captain), T Faletau.

Scorers: tries – R Webb; conversion – L Halfpenny; penalties – L Halfpenny (2); drop goal – D Biggar

England: M Brown, A Watson, J Joseph, L Burrell (B Twelvetrees 74), J May, G Ford, B Youngs (R Wigglesworth 68), J Marler (M Vunipola 54), D Hartley (T Youngs 54), D Cole (K Brookes 60), D Attwood, G Kruis (N Easter 71), J Haskell, C Robshaw (captain), B Vunipola.

Scorers: tries – A Watson, J Joseph; conversion – G Ford; penalties – G Ford (3)

Referee: Jerome Garces

Attendance: 73,815

Argus star man: James Haskell