Cardiff, Wales (AP) — England remained unbeaten by downing Wales 21-16 in Cardiff on Saturday, and for the second Six Nations match in a row their replacements produced another crucial late converted try.
Elliot Daly crossed in the left corner with four minutes to go and Owen Farrell converted from the touchline to overcome a 16-14 deficit and force Wales to score a converted try to win.
But the Welsh, who have prided themselves on their fitness in the Warren Gatland era, had nothing left to offer and likely saw their title hopes snuffed out by England for a third straight year.
England march on, having extended their national record winning streak to 16 with Italy next at home in two weeks.
“To come to a place like this, against a Wales who talked about lifting for this game all week, and grind out a win is a brilliant result for us,” Farrell said.
The reserves had a big hand in lifting England over France last week, and they pulled it off again in a gripping match. Ironically, England slowly grew into ascendancy after captain Dylan Hartley was yanked off in the 47th minute.
Even so, Wales had a chance to finish off England after Leigh Halfpenny’s third penalty put them up 16-11 with a quarter to go.
In front of the Wales tryline, flyhalf Dan Biggar intercepted England scrumhalf Ben Youngs to save a certain try, and forced a lineout outside of the England 22. But the effort was wasted. Wales botched the attacking lineout and scrum, gave away a penalty at the other end, and Farrell’s third penalty kick cut the Welsh lead to two.
Wales were crumbling and England’s confidence was thickening.
Ben Te’o, who scored the match-winning try against France, was held out on the left, then fellow replacement back Jonny May on the right. Wales midfielder Jonathan Davies cleared from his in-goal, but not out. The kick went straight to Farrell, who sent Daly galloping around Alex Cuthbert and into the left corner.
Daly plays centre for his club, and England coach Eddie Jones said, “We’re not sure what’s his best position but he’s handy on the wing. He’s got exceptional gas.”
Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones was philosophical: “The performance was there for 76 minutes. Unfortunately, those four minutes eluded us this week.”
England started the match with their most inexperienced loose trio in the Six Nations. Maro Itoje, Jack Clifford and Nathan Hughes shared just 20 caps compared to their opposites’ 130. While they were shaded for much of the match, lock Joe Launchbury brilliantly picked up the slack: He carried the ball 18 times, made 15 tackles, and caught four throw-ins.
He helped England notch the first try before the first quarter was over. England went through the phases before Daly launched fullback Mike Brown, who was dropped near the tryline. But from the ruck, Youngs dived over.
Farrell couldn’t convert, and Halfpenny’s second penalty left Wales two points behind.
Wales scrumhalf Rhys Webb tried to do a Youngs after an Alun Wyn Jones charge but he failed. Wales opted for scrum instead of a penalty kick and blew it when Rob Evans collapsed against England tighthead Dan Cole.
Just before the interval, a Wales scrum stayed solid in England’s half. Scott Williams set up for crash ball and the English fell for it. Instead, Webb fed Liam Williams, who came off his left wing and strode through a huge gap to angle to the posts. Halfpenny converted and Wales led 13-8.
Then halftime stalled their momentum, and England came back, yet again.
“Just unbelievable character from the guys,” Hartley said. “They believe in playing the full 80 minutes if need be. A hell of a test match.”