Wales returned to winning ways at the Principality Stadium on Saturday with a hard fought win over England after last week’s defeat in the return game at Twickenham.
Warren Gatland was forced into three changes to his starting XV, with Gareth Anscombe ruled out of the World Cup resulting in Dan Biggar stepping in at fly-half, while Adam Beard and Justin Tipuric weren’t risked after picking up knocks with Jake Ball and James Davies selected at lock and flanker, respectively.
On the other hand, Eddie Jones welcomed back the likes of Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes into his pack, but continued to stick with a somewhat experimental backline as Willi Heinz, George Ford, Piers Francis and Jonathan Joseph formed the three quarter line.
The opening 20 minutes of the game was a battle, with neither side getting on the scoreboard. Wales dominated possession but despite lengthy attacking phases struggled to make headway either in contact around the fringes or when moving the ball to the wide channel.
England did have their chances to push forward but a stolen lineout by Aaron Wainwright and turnovers on the floor from Nicky Smith and Jake Ball prevented them from setting up a scoring opportunity.
It took until the 25th minute for Dan Biggar to put points on the board off the tee, as the visitors were regularly penalised in their own half but Wales could not get the driving maul functioning well enough to make any impact.
In the end the big breakthrough came just after the half hour mark when first Anthony Watson was sent to the sin bin having been adjudged to have deliberately knocked the ball on to prevent a promising attack, and the home side set about making him pay.
A surprise move saw Biggar kick the penalty cross field to Josh Adams who made good progress into England’s 22 down the right wing, before the ball was recycled to the fly-half who kicked back crossfield for George North to steal in ahead of Ken Owens and grab the try.
The score stayed 10-0 through the half-time break, with England turning to their experienced bench early in the second half as the likes of Jamie George, Joe Marler and Owen Farrell entered the fray.
This resulted in an extended period of pressure from the away side that Wales’ improved defence stood up to well, preventing them scoring any tries, but good work from Billy Vunipola on the floor and Jake Ball being penalised for not rolling away resulted in two penalties for George Ford.
In what was almost the opposite of last weekend’s game though, while England had the better of the third quarter in the game, Wales started to work their way back onto the front foot on the hour mark.
Leigh Halfpenny missed the chance to add three points to the score from distance before an Alun Wyn Jones turnover provided an opportunity to play in the opposition 22, however the chance went begging as possession was spilled on the floor.
England still threatened, with Anthony Watson taking them dangerously up field, but some dogged Wales defence both from open play and at the maul didn’t allow them to get properly setup in attack, especially with a minute to go as the home side won the ball back to secure victory.
Halfpenny had been successful with a kick at the second attempt just to extend the lead, with the scoreboard showing 13-6 at the end of the game, Wales’ 11 successive home win.
In terms of building for the World Cup it was an ideal performance. Gaining the confidence from winning, looking fitter, returning to the normal defensive organisation and intensity, and working hard at the set piece, it was another step towards Japan.
There are still areas to improve, with the attack misfiring at times, but with two more pre-World Cup tests and five weeks until the opening pool stage game, things are building nicely for Warren Gatland’s men.