Mon, Feb 27, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Wales strike late to beat England

LATE DRAMA:Scott Williams’ moment of brilliance five minutes from time rounded off a Triple Crown triumph for Wales, who had already beaten Scotland and Ireland

AP, TWICKENHAM, ENGLAND

George North of Wales, top, passes the ball as he gets tackled by England’s David Strettle in their Six Nations match at Twickenham in London, England, on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

Outplayed for long periods, Wales needed just one moment of individual class to keep their Six Nations Grand Slam aspirations on track at Twickenham on Saturday.

With five minutes left and the scores level, replacement center Scott Williams ripped the ball from the hands of England lock Courtney Lawes, collected his own chip-kick and raced over for the only try.

Leigh Halfpenny converted to make it 19-12 and round off a Triple Crown triumph with a third win from three matches.

Wales have home games against Italy and France remaining and they have become stronger favorites to win the championship, although France could strengthen their cause against Scotland yesterday.

Ireland kept their faint title hopes alive with a comprehensive 42-10 win over Italy.

For all the late drama and Williams’ intervention, Wales coach Warren Gatland said the catalyst for victory came when flyhalf Rhys Priestland was sent to the sin-bin for deliberately straying offside as England pressed for a try.

“We played better with 14 men than with 15 men,” Gatland said. “That’s how we should have played with 15 men. Keeping the ball for the whole of that period was, for us, the turning point of that match.”

Priestland’s transgression prevented England from getting their first try in three games which did not come from a chargedown. Lock Mauritz Botha blocked Priestland’s kick with both hands, but although he was hauled down just short of the line, Priestland strayed and trudged off to the sin-bin as Farrell kicked for 12-6.

With the experience of playing almost all of a World Cup semi-final with just 14 men only four months ago, Wales responded strongly to the setback and Halfpenny trimmed the deficit back to three points with another penalty.

“I thought our attack during the period was absolutely superb,” assistant coach Shaun Edwards said. “Our attack was awesome during that period.”

England failed to cross the line and all of their points came from the boot of Owen Farrell, but the hosts also had reason to approach their final two matches with cheer.

Wales could have been out of sight by the time England’s reshaped back row gained a foothold and the backs got some ball.

Strettle raced in off his wing to save England in the second minute with a fingertip tap tackle at full stretch on George North after the giant wing broke the line. Priestland then tried to find his other wing, Alex Cuthbert, with a cross-kick behind the try-line, but the ball went dead to give England a reprieve.

However, England’s domination of the second quarter was such that, after taking just 28 percent of possession in the first quarter, Wales edged it just 52-48 at the break.

England then stretched their 9-6 halftime lead to 12-6 and only hurried grubber-kicks in promising positions denied them openings on at least three occasions.

Ireland’s Grand Slam chances disappeared with their opening loss to Wales and they looked rusty in Dublin after a three-week layoff caused by a frozen pitch in their postponed second match in France.

Keith Earls touched down, but the scores were level just before halftime when Sergio Parisse’s 35th-minute try and a conversion by flyhalf Tobias Botes made it 10-10.

Ireland looked set for a difficult match, but they responded in the final move of the half, Tommy Bowe rounding off in the corner following a flowing move from Rob Kearney, Gordon D’Arcy and Stephen Ferris.

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