England beat Wales to reach Autumn Nations Cup showpiece

Jack Willis celebrates winning a penalty 28/11/2020
England secured their place in the Autumn Nations Cup showpiece next weekend as Eddie Jones’ men made it three wins from three with a hard-fought 24-13 victory over Wales.

England secured their place in the Autumn Nations Cup showpiece next weekend as Eddie Jones’ men made it three wins from three with a hard-fought 24-13 victory over Wales.

Tries from Henry Slade and Mako Vunipola, plus 14 points from the boot of Owen Farrell, ensured the Red Rose maintained their perfect record in the tournament and finished top of Group A.

Wales had taken the lead through Johnny Williams’ first-half try, converted by Leigh Halfpenny, while they cut the deficit to five points after the break with a couple of Dan Biggar penalties.

But England reasserted their control from the tee through Farrell and the Red Rose skipper was delighted with the way his side came through a tough examination at Parc y Scarlets.

“It is massive,” Farrell said. “We knew it would be a tough game. We struggled to get a foothold and momentum until the end so I think it was a good performance.

“Wales are a tough, tough side and they showed that. We will look at this and see how we can get better. At the same time, we came down here to get a result and we have done that.”

Sam Underhill was awarded Player of the Match for his all-action display, with the flanker prominent in the loose, relentless in defence and a menace at the breakdown.

And having previously plied his trade in Wales with Ospreys, 24-year-old Underhill relished the opportunity to show what he could do in Llanelli as England navigated the Welsh challenge.

“We were expecting a proper challenge down here and it was. We can be pretty happy with our performance. Wales are still a quality team,” said Underhill.

“They have got good ball carriers and serious pace on the outside. I wouldn’t say it [the style] is boring. If you don’t like scrums and lineouts, go and watch rugby league.

“The quality of the set-piece now compared to 10 years ago is difference. The quality of rugby in general is going up and the more that goes up, the smaller the margin for error.”

Reigning Guinness Six Nations champions England had the better of the opening stages but Wales took the lead when Williams crossed with ten minutes on the clock.

Halfpenny added the extras to extend the hosts’ lead before the visitors hit back almost immediately, with Slade finishing off a well-worked move in the corner.

Farrell missed the conversion but landed a couple of penalties to put England 11-7 ahead at the break, before Vunipola crashed over after the restart to extend their advantage.

The conversion made it 18-7 but Wales cut the gap with two Biggar penalties, only for England to respond with two more three-pointers of their own to seal their seventh straight win.

And Wales head coach Wayne Pivac took plenty of positives from his side’s performance, insisting they are heading in the right direction after ruing a few decisions that didn’t go their way.

“A lot of young guys got an opportunity against a strong England side and did well. We’re making improvements,” said Pivac.

“Ultimately, scrum penalties went against us and that’s something we’ll have to look at.

“The refereeing too, the scrums were a bit of a penalty and the Dan Biggar decision [tackle in the air leading to England’s first try]. We need to build from this performance.

“It was a good effort from the guys and we’re heading in the right direction.”