England suffer narrow defeat at Wales
England missed out on the chance to become the world’s number one side after losing 13-6 to Wales in their second Rugby World Cup warm-up match.
Ex-Northampton Saints winger George North scored the only try of the match, latching on to the end of a cross-field kick from current Saints fly-half Dan Biggar.
England increased the tempo in the second half, with Leicester Tigers kicker George Ford firing through two penalties.
But Leigh Halfpenny added a late penalty of his own to ensure Wales displace New Zealand at the top of the rankings.
Wales at the summit
Although the World Cup will give a true indication of who is the best side in the world, Wales will no doubt cherish this win – although when the day started, there were many puzzling possible outcomes as four sides jostled for the top spot.
England needed a 15-point win to move to the top themselves but it was Wales who started the stronger, with Biggar particularly busy in possession.
He fired passes wide with menace and tested England and Saracens’ full-back Elliot Daly under the high ball.
However, the first points did not arrive until the 26th minute when Biggar fired a penalty through the posts.
‘On a sixpence’
It was a Biggar’s kicking from hand which transformed the side’s Six Nations meeting in Cardiff and he was at it again here.
A yellow card for Bath Rugby’s Anthony Watson gave Wales a numerical advantage and, with no-one out on the right-hand side to cover North, Biggar hooked a high kick into the arms of the open North, who dived over to score.
England bite back
With the likes of Saracens’ Owen Farrell and Jamie George, Leicester Tigers’ Ben Youngs and Harlequins’ Joe Marler introduced, England started to make inroads.
Billy Vunipola and Farrell won a pair of penalties – both converted by Ford – as England reduced the gap to just four points.
But Wales settled the nerves with a Halfpenny penalty to extend the gap to seven, forcing England to open up even more in their pursuit of a try.
However, try as the might, they could not breakdown Wales’ stubborn defence and were forced to settle for a narrow defeat.
England’s George Ford: “It’s a disappointing result. I can’t fault the effort, the commitment was brilliant again today. We just need to tidy a few areas up – discipline and the breakdown.
“We knew Wales were going to come back. We wanted to play a better game this week too. That was a proper Test match – physical, not much time and space.
“It’s been good for us to play in a stadium like this with the roof closed so we’ll keep working.
“I don’t think many people will remember these games. What happens at the World Cup in a few weeks’ time will be completely different so we’ll be ready for that.”
England: Elliot Daly; Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Piers Francis, Joe Cokanasiga; George Ford, Willi Heinz; Ellis Genge, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Dan Cole; Joe Launchbury, Maro Itoje; Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Jamie George, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, George Kruis, Jack Singleton, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Nicky Smith, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis; Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones; Aaron Wainwright, James Davies, Ross Moriarty.
Replacements: Elliot Dee, Wyn Jones, Dillon Lewis, Aaron Shingler, Josh Navidi, Aled Davies, Jarrod Evans, Owen Watkin.