An inspired Wales side stormed to a record 30-3 victory in Cardiff to retain the Six Nations title and deny England a Grand Slam.
Rampant Wales stole the Six Nations from England’s grasp on Saturday, thrashing its old rival 30-3 to retain the title and deny the long-time tournament leader a Grand Slam.
Winger Alex Cuthbert grabbed two second-half tries for the Welsh in a record win over their neighbors, after fullback Leigh Halfpenny had kicked them to a 12-3 lead by the 52nd minute at Millennium Stadium.
It was Wales’ fourth title in the past nine years and 26th overall in the tournament _ equaling England’s haul. Wales won its last four matches after opening with a 30-22 loss to Ireland, its eighth straight defeat that had left the national team in disarray.
England would have won the title with a loss by six points but had no answer to Wales’ passion and drive, with a first-half penalty by flyhalf Owen Farrell its only points. The visitors’ error count was high and their scrum was massacred. The boisterous crowd were signing “Easy, easy” long before the final whistle.
It was the eighth time in the past 24 years that the English have thrown away a Grand Slam chance on the final weekend _ and continued the team’s downward spiral after it only edged to an 18-11 win over Italy last weekend. They have scored just one try in their last four games.
It was a step too far for Stuart Lancaster’s young side, which was much more inexperienced than its opponent. Wales boasted 647 caps and included 12 players who started last season’s Grand Slam-clinching victory over France in the same stadium.
The victory margin topped a 25-0 win for Wales back in 1905.
The title finale had been perfectly set up _ the northern hemisphere’s biggest rivalry being played out in Europe’s most intimidating stadium, where the roof was closed at the request of both coaches to add to the atmosphere. With the British and Irish Lions tour less than three months away, there were also squad places up for grabs as coach Warren Gatland watched on in the stands _ one of the many other subplots around a great occasion preceded by a male-voice choir, fireworks and fire-blowers.
Pundits had agreed throughout the week that it was too close to call _ and they were proved massively wrong despite a closely fought first half that was breathless, intense and crammed full of ferocious hits.
Try-scoring chances were at a premium, and early on it was about being precise from the kicking tee.
Halfpenny took the honors in the first half, booting all three of his penalties from various ranges _ two of which came from England infringements at the scrum. It was a department the visitors struggled in all match, although a slippery pitch that cut up easily didn’t help.
Farrell replied with one of his own penalties and missed another from long range, but it was his dab through that led to England’s best chance of the half. Mike Brown collected the ball in the 33rd on the left wing but knocked on under pressure and Halfpenny cleared.
Brown was also an integral figure in Wales’ clearest opening, tap-tackling George North as the giant wing powered through after brushing off a weak, high tackle from Chris Ashton.
England was hardly in the Welsh 22 in the first half, which finished with Wales flyhalf Dan Biggar missing a drop goal and the players out on their feet.
And Wales stayed on the front foot after the break. A five-minute spell of incessant pressure on England’s line ended with Halfpenny stroking over a fourth penalty, making it 12-3 and putting one Welsh hand on the trophy for the first time.
Soon enough there were two hands, as Tom Wood lost possession in contact before the ball was recycled out to Cuthbert via Mike Phillips and Jonathan Davies. Cuthbert handed off Brown and just kept his feet in play as he finished in the right corner.
Farrell missed a chance to trim the arrears by dragging a penalty wide, Biggar dropped a goal and Cuthbert clinched the title by finishing off from close range after a lung-busting run from outstanding flanker Justin Tipuric.
Biggar converted and added a penalty to pile on the woes for the bedraggled English.
Date created : 2013-03-16