England 33 Wales 30: Eddie Jones blasts decision to send off England's Manu Tuilagi

All the hand sanitisers in the world were never going to keep this game clean.

By Dave Craven
Saturday, 7th March 2020, 7:02 pm
Updated Saturday, 7th March 2020, 8:08 pm

Extra hygiene products were made available throughout Twickenham Stadium this afternoon as Six Nations organisers did their utmost to tick all the boxes in light of restricting the coronavirus.

But on the field, the fixture between England and Wales was a typically feisty, bloodied affair with no little niggle and a constant whiff of menace hanging over it.

That said, no one initially expected to see Manu Tuilagi red-carded for his 75th minute challenge on George North.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

England's Manu Tuilagi is shown a red card by referee Ben O'Keeffe during the Guinness Six Nations match (Adam Davy/PA Wire)

With England in command but already down to 14 men following Ellis Genge’s yellow card, Henry Slade did brilliantly to race across and deny North with a perfect tackle into touch.

Tuilagi had offered support, too, but replays clearly showed the hulking centre had never wrapped his arms around his opponent.

Instead, although there was no malice, his shoulder made contact with North’s head and referee Ben O’Keeffe opted for a dismissal.

North was able to continue and Tuilagi apologised, embracing his British Lions colleague as he left the field, but the incident certainly took some of the gloss of England’s Triple Crown win.

England's Manu Tuilagi celebrates scoring his side's third try of the game (David Davies/PA Wire)

Against the 13 men, Wales managed to race in two tries from Dan Bigger and Justin Tipuric, Biggar converting the latter with the last kick of the game for a scoreline that flattered his side given England’s overall superiority.

It was a third win in a row for England - a third successive defeat for their opponents - but, with their last game in Italy postponed on public health grounds, it all still felt rather anti-climatic.

Granted, it is not the fault of England that their tournament has been truncated in such a manner and, at least, they signed off with a largely impressive display.

Tom Curry was immense again at No8 while peerless lock Maro Itoje punished the Welsh at every opportunity, whether with rampaging runs, fierce hits or stealing line-outs.

However, Ben Youngs was arguably England’s key man, the scrum-half having a big role to play in their opening three tries whether with his line-breaking ability or clever distribution.

The Red Rose led 20-9 at the break and, though Wales got close to them with a stunning Tipuric try just 22 seconds into the second period, they soon regained control.

Owen Farrell’s boot and Tuilagi’s try just after the hour mark ensured - just - there was no repeat of last year’s disastrous second half collapse in Cardiff.

England had got off to a flying start with Anthony Watson, back in the side after injury, scoring inside just four minutes.

It came from a lovely set-move off the line-out as Itoje claimed, Curry fed Youngs as he moved infield and then Watson came up on the inside to catch Wales scrum-half Tomos Williams cold.

Owen Farrell improved and he was quickly in the thick of it at the other end, lashing out at George North on the floor after his British Lion team-mate had fumbled going for the line.

That caused a ruckus that rumbled on for some time and - with just eight minutes on the clock - O’Keeffe already felt the need to speak to both captains, awarding Wales the penalty which Leigh Halfpenny duly slotted.

England lost Jonny May at the same time, too, after the winger clearly had not recovered from an earlier knock to the head in an accidental collision with Halfpenny.

Soon after, an aggravated Farrell was pushing Dan Biggar in the back when chasing an England kick, claiming his rival was changing his course of running.

The game was already simmering along nicely.

When Alun Wyn-Jones was caught on the wrong side, Farrell made it 10-3 but the home side’s discipline was poor, too.

Henry Slade, who had a mixed afternoon at full-back after coming on for May, failed to release on the floor and then Farrell and Manu Tuilagi were penalised for a high tackle on Josh Navidi that Halfpenny kicked.

Still, England were more clinical when it mattered, Youngs fizzing infield off the back of another well-executed line-out to make the initial ground for their next try.

After a couple of swift phases, he, Farrell and George Ford linked to find Elliot Daly - shifted to the wing in the early rejig - enough space to squeeze in on the left.

Farrell improved but Youngs was awry with his box kick to cede possession at the restart.

Maro Itoje stole the line-out, only for his scrum-half to skew his next kick, too.

Nevertheless, Wales did not have enough about them to make the hosts pay and, instead, inflicted more damage on themselves as Hadleigh Parkes went high just as Tuilagi - already sporting a blooded bandage on his head - started to gather momentum.

Soon after, when Ross Moriarty collapsed a maul under growing pressure, Farrell extended the lead further to 20-6 but Wales were allowed to stay in it when England misplaced a pass in injury-time, gifting their opponents a chance for Biggar to slot another penalty.

Then came that glorious try straight from the kick-off.

They somehow found acres of space down England’s left and ruthlessly exploited it with Josh Navidi and Tomos Williams surging away to see flanker Tipuric romp home.

Biggar converted with many fans still getting back to their seats but some of that excellent work was immediately undone as Wales conceded a penalty in rudimentary range for Farrell.

Farrell slotted another penalty after his pack had muscled Wales off their own feed at a scrum, Ford this time converting, before another Youngs break set them up for Tuilagi’s finish.

Farrell slotted the extras but Wales managed to exert some pressure of their own leading to Genge's yellow card for his side's persistent infringing and that late Welsh flourish.

England: Daly; Watson, Tuilagi, Farrell, May (Slade 8); Ford, Youngs (Heinz 70); Marler, George (Cowan-Dickie 58), Sinckler (Genge 66-Stuart 78)), Itoje, Kruis (Launchbury 58), Lawes (Ewels 66-Marler 76), Wilson (Earl 76), Curry.

Wales: Halfpenny; North, Tompkins, Parkes, L Williams (McNicholl 66); Biggar, T Williams (Webb 46); Evans (Carre 58) , Owens (Elias 75), Lewis (Brown 40), Ball (Shingler 58), Wyn Jones, Moriarty (Faletau 58), Tipuric, Navidi.