Cardiff, United Kingdom, Feb 11 – England snatched a late 21-16 win against Wales in the Six Nations on Saturday to stretch their winning run to 16 matches while Ireland handed Italy a nine-try, 63-10 rout in Rome.
The reigning champions were 16-11 behind with just nine minutes left at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium with hopes of back-to-back Grand Slams fading fast.
But an Owen Farrell penalty saw England narrow the gap before, with four minutes left, Wales centre Jonathan Davies’s poor clearance kick allowed Elliot Daly to run in the winning try.
“We are a gritty team with characters in there that don’t know how to get beaten and that was evident today,” said England’s Australian coach Eddie Jones.
A fast-paced first half ended with Wales five points in front at 13-8.
England scrum-half Ben Youngs had put his side in the driving seat with a try before sustained Welsh pressure was rewarded on the stroke of half-time when wing Liam Williams ran a sharp line from behind a scrum for a try which Leigh Halfpenny converted.
Jones praised the 24-year-old Daly’s decisive score by saying: “He’s got gas the boy. He’s got a bit of ‘X-factor’ about him and that’s why we like him.
“I don’t necessarily think wing is his best position but it suits us at the moment.”
Saturday’s win for England followed last week’s opening 19-16 triumph over France at Twickenham while Wales have one win and one defeat from two games following their 33-7 victory in Italy,
Wales coach Rob Howley said the closing stages on Saturday were crucial.
“I’m proud and delighted with the performance…up to about 75 minutes,” he said.
“Unfortunately, England know how to win. They’ve got a lot of confidence, and in the last five minutes we lacked a bit of composure.”
Ireland rebounded from their opening Six Nations defeat with an emphatic 63-10 demolition of Italy as flanker CJ Stander and reserve back Craig Gilroy both ran in a hat-trick of tries.
Keith Earls touched down twice in the first half to go along with a pair of scores from Stander as Ireland swept into a 28-10 half-time lead at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.
Joe Schmidt’s side stormed to a commanding bonus-point victory with five more second-half tries as Stander grabbed his third before Gilroy ran a tiring Italian defence ragged with Garry Ringrose also crossing the whitewash.
The result gave Ireland six points in the standings, having secured the consolation of a losing bonus point in last weekend’s 27-22 defeat against Scotland at Murrayfield.
“It’s definitely nicer to win than to lose and we are delighted with the score, but there’s a still a lot of work for us to do,” stand-in Irish captain Jamie Heaslip told ITV Sport.
“We’ll recuperate and recover now and then the hard work starts again.”
On Sunday, France tackle Scotland in Paris.
Last week at Twickenham saw France again go close against a major side only to lose narrowly, just as they did in November defeats by Australia (25-23) and world champions New Zealand (24-19).
“Only a victory can unlock the next improvement,” said France coach Guy Noves.