TWICKENHAM: Jonny May scored a pair of first-half tries as reigning champions England cashed in on two moments of brilliance to beat Wales 12-6 in the Six Nations at a rainswept Twickenham on Saturday.
The wing struck as early as the third minute after an excellent cross-field grubber-kick by Owen Farrell and was on hand to complete a 25-phase move following a superb pass out of the tackle by Joe Launchbury in the 20th minute.
Wales’s Gareth Anscombe scored the only points of the second half, after England replacement Sam Underhill had made a try-saving tackle, but his 77th-minute penalty was too little too late for the visitors.
Victory made it two wins out of two for England, bidding to become the first team to win three successive outright Six Nations titles.
Wales suffered a huge setback shortly before Saturday’s kick-off when ace goalkicker Leigh Halfpenny, who scored 24 points in a 34-7 thrashing of Scotland in Cardiff last weekend, was ruled out amid reports he had a foot infection.
His place at fullback was taken by Anscombe.
England made two changes from the side that overwhelmed Italy 46-15 in Rome.
Danny Care started in place of the injured Ben Youngs and so became England’s most-capped scrum-half, surpassing World Cup winner Matt Dawson’s record of 77 Tests, while centre Jonathan Joseph replaced Ben Te’o.
England used a wet pitch to brilliant effect as they went 5-0 up.
Anthony Watson challenged Wales fly-half Rhys Patchell for a high ball and knocked it back. Farrell’s raking kick then slid across the turf into a vast unprotected space, with May outpacing the retreating cover.
Inside centre Farrell’s conversion attempt from out on the left sailed past the right post.
Novice No.10 Patchell had been told to expect plenty of “heat” by England coach Eddie Jones even before he was given kicking duties in Halfpenny’s absence.
His confidence would not have been helped when he missed his first shot at goal, pushing a 40-metre penalty from a central position wide.
England started to get the better of a bruising battle up front, the forwards setting up a series of drives close to the Welsh line before sustained phase play ended with Launchbury sending left wing May in for his second try.
This time Farrell landed a difficult touchline conversion and England were 12-0 up in the 20th minute.
Wales tried to hit back but Anscombe had a try disallowed in a tight call by New Zealand television match official Glenn Newman, who ruled he had knocked-on trying to ground the ball.
An earlier England infringement allowed Patchell to kick a simple penalty that cut the hosts’ lead to nine points.
Wales kicked a penalty for an attacking line-out following a flare-up between the packs but squandered a promising position with a knock-on by prop Samson Lee in sight of the try-line and England turned round 12-3 ahead.
England replaced No.8 Sam Simmonds with Underhill at the break while early in the second half Jack Nowell came on after Watson appeared to suffer a hamstring injury.
Wales’s blindside flanker Aaron Shingler made a great break but he kicked when he might have passed and Wales, to make matters worse, conceded a penalty at an ensuing ruck.
The Welsh were struggling to control what possession they had and in the 56th minute Patchell was replaced by powerhouse wing George North, with Anscombe moving to fly-half.
England continued to force turnovers and were still two scores ahead going into the final quarter of the match.
Wales did then manage to string a move together but a brilliant cover tackle in the corner by Underhill denied centre Scott Williams what seemed a certain try.
England won the subsequent line-out but Wales were soon back in their 22 only for another knock-on to cost them dear.
Anscombe cut the deficit but England capped a fine defensive display to see out the game.--AFP