May's day as England scrap past Wales
Jonny May claimed two early tries and Owen Farrell excelled once again as England maintained their supreme home record under Eddie Jones with a 12-6 Six Nations victory over Wales at Twickenham.
May had never previously scored in the championship, but crossed twice in the first 20 minutes on Saturday to put his side in charge, with the outstanding Farrell involved in both efforts.
Wales, who were hit by the late withdrawal of Leigh Halfpenny through injury, could consider themselves unfortunate to trail by nine points at the break after Gareth Anscombe, the full-back's replacement, had been controversially denied a try.
Warren Gatland's side were comfortably on the right side of the penalty count, but could not turn things around in the second period as England defended stoutly in greasy conditions and rode their luck on occasion, most notably when Sam Underhill's last-gasp tackle denied Scott Williams.
England have now won 15 successive home fixtures in the Six Nations and the odds have shortened on a Grand Slam being up for grabs for both sides when Ireland visit Twickenham in the final round next month.
After overcoming early Wales pressure and a head injury assessment for Dylan Hartley, which the skipper passed, England moved ahead in the third minute as Wales were caught cold following Rhys Patchell's failure to collect a box kick from Danny Care.
Farrell, who excelled in partnership with George Ford against Italy last time out, duly spotted space in behind and his perfectly weighted kick left May with a simple finish after the wing had galloped down the left flank.
1 - Jonny May has scored his first try in the Six Nations; he had three assists in his last four starts in the Championship before today though. Contribution.-- OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) February 10, 2018
The resulting conversion was missed, but Farrell remained central to much of his team's best work early on - in attack and defence - and played a major role in another try for May after 20 minutes.
England piled on the pressure with phase after phase of attack, before Farrell's looping pass to the left found Joe Launchbury and the lock produced a deft offload to find May on his inside.
After Farrell had converted, Wales responded strongly and appeared hugely unfortunate when Anscombe looked to have beaten Anthony Watson to a loose ball and scored, only for the TMO to rule otherwise.
The visitors, who had been playing with an advantage, had to settle for three points from the boot of Patchell, the fly-half having failed with an earlier shot from distance.
Wales twice went to the corner from kickable penalties either side of that score, but were unable to capitalise on England's lack of discipline and saw another opportunity go begging early in the second half after Aaron Shingler's 40-yard break.
Jones was visibly frustrated as his side continued to be penalised on a regular basis amid increasingly scrappy play, while Gatland introduced George North in place of Patchell, with Anscombe switching to fly-half.
The move looked to have paid off as a fluid attack culminated in Williams diving for the line on the left wing, but a superb tackle from England replacement Underhill forced the centre into touch.
England were rocking at that point and a 77th-minute penalty from Anscombe set up a grandstand finale.
An increasingly enterprising Wales could not find another score, though, as Jones' men held on.
Key Opta stats:
- England have won their last 15 home games in the Six Nations, their longest run of victories at home in the competition.
- Six of the last eight Six Nations matches between these sides have been decided by a margin of a converted try or less.
- There were just three second-half points scored in this game, the fewest in a Six Nations match since France v England in 2010 (also three points).