George North’s try ensured Wales struck back in their World Cup warm-up double header with England and returned to the top of the world rankings.
The 2019 Guinness Six Nations champions built their Grand Slam campaign on unbreachable defence, and used the same method to thwart England at every turn and edge a physical Test.
Where the Welsh looked sluggish last weekend in the defeat at Twickenham there was only intensity at Principality Stadium, newly-installed fly half Dan Biggar kicking a penalty before North’s score.
England fought their way back into the contest in the second half but were restricted to two George Ford penalties, Leigh Halfpenny’s late three-pointer sealing an important warm-up win.
With Warren Gatland turning up the pressure on his team ahead of kick-off, Biggar attempted to shuffle that pressure onto Elliot Daly in the opening with a succession of targeted kicks.
Daly held firm, as did defences for most of the first quarter with an occasional cheer from the crowd as Aaron Wainwright first stole a lineout and England a scrum penalty – arm-wrestle even.
Eddie Jones’ men had won three such penalties at Twickenham last week but Wales got one back at the scrum on 20 minutes and after a spell of pressure got the scoreboard moving – Biggar kicking an easy three from an offside penalty.
England responded with flashes of pace on the outside from Anthony Watson and Daly but punishing defensive hits and breakdown excellence kept the Welsh line intact.
On 33 minutes came the decisive action of the half, Watson penalised for a deliberate knockdown and Wales’ quick thinking seeing Biggar chip to North for an easy run-in.
After the break England looked renewed, scrum-half Ben Youngs on for Willi Heinz, but were repelled in the corner as the hosts got the better of a catch-and-drive.
Jones’ men did get on the board on 51 minutes through a Ford three-pointer, another scrum penalty won minutes later keeping on the pressure.
Wales were then penalised at the breakdown to enable Ford to cut the deficit to 10-6, Halfpenny given an opportunity at the other end but unable to convert a long-range effort.
The visitors desperately tried to claw their way into the lead, first replacement hooker Jamie George scuttling away down the right and then Maro Itoje intercepting to burst up the middle of the pitch.
England though couldn’t quite keep their composure in Wales’s 22, Halfpenny’s late penalty ensuring it’s one win apiece for the old rivals as the World Cup draws ever closer.