Wales suffered a third straight defeat in the Six Nations, losing three-in-a-row in a tournament for the first time since 2007, as England emerged victorious from Saturday’s game at Twickenham.
Wayne Pivac had made four changes to his starting XV that lost at home to France last time out, two of which were enforced as Wyn Jones and Josh Adams were ruled out to be replaced by Rob Evans and Liam Williams, while Josh Navidi was preferred to Taulupe Faletau and Tomos Williams got the nod over Gareth Davies.
One player who remained in the line-up was Dan Biggar though, despite suffering a knee injury playing for Northampton last weekend, and he was the subject of heaving targeting early on as he fielded a kick and was immediately hit by a very questionably legal hit from Tom Curry and Manu Tuilagi.
That set the tone for a physical and kick-heavy opening period of the game during which England’s defensive line speed and intense kick chase put Wales under heavy pressure, with Justin Tipuric eventually conceding a lineout just outside our own 22 as he made a covering tackle.
On first phase ball the home side struck brilliantly, with Ben Youngs dragging the defence away from the back of the set piece before returning the ball inside to Anthony Watson who appeared off his blindside wing to break a Tomos Williams tackle and reach past a covering Liam Williams to open the scoring.
Owen Farrell bagged the conversion, but conceding that early try seemed to spark Wales into life as some high-tempo and physical carrying took us into the English 22 before George North went to push over the line. Unfortunately he lost control of the ball in the process but a penalty allowed Leigh Halfpenny to get us on the board.
Farrell and Halfpenny traded penalties as the score ticked over to 10-3 at the midway point of the first-half, with Wales still looking to score our first try of the game when Dan Biggar cross kicked perfectly for Justin Tipuric. England conceded another penalty but the lineout was lost after the kick to the corner.
The home side wasted no time in punishing that missed opportunity then when they made it to the Welsh 22, moving the ball quickly and catching the men in red narrow before Leigh Halfpenny was caught out of position and Elliot Daly was able to dive over in the corner.
A second conversion and penalty from Farrell, as well as a penalty each from Halfpenny and Dan Biggar made the score 20-9 at half-time, but the scoreline belied just how in control England were.
Despite that fact the second half started in electric fashion for Wales as straight from kick-off we produced arguably the try of the Six Nations so far, started by Nick Tompkins taking possession, stepping a defender and finding Josh Navidi outside him.
The number made yards down the wing before Tompkins popped up back on the inside, linking the play brilliantly to Tomos Williams who went on to draw the final defender and put Justin Tipuric away, the flanker turning on his trademark afterburners to get under the posts.
With the conversion kicked it was temporarily game on, but that was as good as it got for Wales during the majority of the second half with first Farrell kicking a penalty before another high tempo attack in the Welsh 22 saw England score a third try through Manu Tuilagi.
At 33-16 it seemed the game was over but Wayne Pivac’s side rallied as the game entered the final 10 minutes, getting a hold of territory and putting the English under an increasing amount of pressure, with the home team conceding a number of penalties in a row.
After seven of those penalties the referee Ben O’Keeffe finally produced a yellow card for Ellis Genge, and then as Wales went to take advantage of the man advantage there was more disciplinary action needed as Tuilagi launched a flying shoulder charge at the head of George North with the winger driving for the corner.
Some deliberation with the TMO was needed but eventually the correct decision of a red card was reached, and from first phase ball Dan Biggar was able to power over from close range, converting his own try.
Then in the dying seconds Rhys Webb spotted some space and was able to get his hands through the tackle, offloading brilliantly for Justin Tipuric to score a second try of the game. Unfortunately the clock ticked red as Biggar converted, but the final score of 33-30 earned a losing bonus point for Wales.
In truth the scoreline probably flattered the away side, although they should feel aggrieved over the lack of disciplinary action taken against England at points which may have swung momentum back in our favour.
On a 15 v 15 basis though the defence was left lacking again, the attack never got moving and the difference in physicality and intensity on a general level between the two sides was stark. Work to be done by Wayne Pivac and his coaching ticket.