England into Nations Cup final with grinding win over Wales

Julian Guyer
·3-min read
Key score - England centre Henry Slade (R) runs in their opening try against Wales

England booked their place in next week's Autumn Nations Cup final with a 24-13 win away to Wales at Llanelli on Saturday.

But the Six Nations champions' victory was far from the rout recent results had suggested, and was a triumph for the visitors' set-piece dominance rather than their attacking flair.

Wales stunned England when Johnny Williams' try opened the scoring in a behind-closed-doors match at Parc Y Scarlets.

Tries in either half from Henry Slade and Mako Vunipola, allied to 14 points from the boot of England captain Owen Farrell, saw the visitors to a victory that meant they finished top of Pool A and will likely face France at Twickenham a week on Sunday in the tournament's showpiece match.

"We knew it would be a tough game," Farrell told Amazon Prime. "We struggled to get a foothold and momentum until the end...At the same time we came down here to get a result and we have done that."

England coach Eddie Jones added: "Wales are historically hard to beat at home.

"We got a lot of quick ball early. We weren't as precise as we would have liked to be out wide," the Australian added.

Defeat meant Wales had won just once in eight matches, with the lone success in that sequence against second-tier Georgia last week, but under-pressure coach Wayne Pivac said: "A lot of young guys got an opportunity against a strong England side and did well. We're making improvements.

"Ultimately, scrum penalties went against us and that's something we'll have to look at," the New Zealander said.

This was only the second Wales-England international in Llanelli, following a 0-0 draw back in 1887. Cardiff's Principality Stadium has been transformed into a field hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.

England had George Ford back at fly-half after he came off the bench during last week's 18-7 win over Ireland, with Farrell moving into midfield alongside Slade in the absence of the injured Ollie Lawrence.

Meanwhile James Botham, the grandson of England cricket great Ian Botham, was in a Wales back-row missing the sidelined Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi.

Behind the pack, scrum-half Lloyd Williams made his first Wales start for four years.

After some aimless early kicking exchanges, England's pack won an eighth-minute scrum penalty but Farrell's 40-metre goal-kick went to the right of the posts -- the first of several misses.

- Williams rocks England -

Wales opened the scoring when fly-half Dan Biggar charged down Slade's kick and Johnny Williams raced clear for an 11th-minute try. Full-back Leigh Halfpenny converted and Wales led 7-0.

Slade atoned for his mistake seven minutes later.

Openside flanker Sam Underhill, impressive throughout, burst into the Welsh 22 before passing to Kyle Sinckler.

The prop was held up just short of the line but the ball was worked back across field, with Slade going in on the overlap out on the right.

Biggar complained he had been tackled in the air during the build-up but the try stood.

The normally reliable Farrell was again off-target with a place kick before Halfpenny missed a long-range penalty.

England's pressure led to a 30th-minute penalty Farrell found his range to put his side 8-7 up following a scrum penalty.

Wales' set-piece problems continued at the start of the second half, a crooked line-out leading to another scrum penalty.

England then forced a five-metre scrum when Wales No 8 Taulupe Faletau was gang-tackled behind his own line.

England No 8 Billy Vunipola made a blindside break off the back of the scrum but was held up short before his brother Mako powered over for a 51st-minute try.

Farrell converted and England had a seemingly comfortable 18-7 lead.

Biggar gave Wales hope before England pulled clear again thanks to Farrell.

jdg/pb