England hold off Wales fightback to seal Triple Crown


England sealed the Triple Crown and are just one victory away from claiming a first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2003 after holding off a storming late Wales fightback to win 25-21 at Twickenham on Saturday.

Wales inflicted a costly World Cup defeat on England in their previous visit to south west London almost six months ago, but there was to be no repeat for Warren Gatland's side as their Six Nations title hopes were effectively ended in the first half.

Anthony Watson's 10th international try and 20 points from Owen Farrell - who had a perfect record with the boot - put Eddie Jones' men 16-0 up at the break after they dominated the opening 40 minutes.

Dan Biggar's try gave Wales hope and late scores from George North and Taulupe Faletau after captain Sam Warburton was carried off with a head injury set up a tense finale following another three Farrell penalties.

England held on to set up a potential title decider against France in Paris next Saturday, but they will be crowned champions if Les Bleus fail to beat Scotland on Sunday.

The hosts were almost rewarded for a positive start when Mike Brown burst through just two minutes in, but opted to cut inside rather than go for the corner and Ben Youngs knocked on just before the line after the ball broke loose.

Two Farrell penalties put England 6-0 in front, but they again came agonisingly close to a first try when it was adjudged that Dan Cole had been held up as Wales came under huge pressure.

Fly-half Farrell made it three out of three from the tee and that elusive opening try came just after the half-hour mark thanks in no small part to the outstanding Maro Itoje.

The lock forced his way through a couple of tackles and fed full-back Brown, who timed his pass to Watson perfectly and the wing raced over for a score which was converted by Farrell.

England carried on where they left off after the interval and the clinical Farrell added another penalty to make it 19-0, but a Biggar try after 53 minutes from out of the blue gave Wales a lifeline.

The fly-half charged down George Ford's kick and had the simple task of touching down under the posts, with his conversion making it 19-7.

Wales lost skipper Warburton following a blow to the head and Farrell made it six penalties out of six after Manu Tuilagi made his international return off the bench following a two-year absence.

Cole was sent to the sin bin with nine minutes remaining and there was late drama as North rounded off a fine move and Faletau also crashed over, with Rhys Priestland converting, but Wales ran out of time to complete a sensational comeback.

Key Opta stats:

- This was the 120th meeting between England and Wales in Five/Six Nations history, with each side now winning 54 games each (D12).
- Anthony Watson has now scored 10 tries since the start of 2015, at least two more than any other player in Test rugby.
- Sam Warburton captained Wales for the 17th time in the Six Nations in this game, overtaking Ryan Jones for the most appearances as Wales captain in the competition since 2000. Only Arthur Gould (18 - 1889-1897) has captained Wales more often in the Home/Five/Six Nations overall.