England 23-19 Wales: Smith kicks hosts to scrappy Six Nations win

By Sports Desk February 26, 2022

England punished an error-strewn Wales performance to win 23-19 at Twickenham and remain France's nearest challengers in the 2022 Six Nations.

The Red Rose had responded to their opening defeat to Scotland with a routine victory over Italy but would have expected a greater test against the defending champions on Saturday.

Instead, England controlled much of the proceedings, with Wales initially impressing only in limiting their scoring.

Marcus Smith's penalty kicking ensured the home side were comfortable early on, though, and an Alex Dombrandt try early in the second period meant an attempted Wales comeback – led by scores from Josh Adams, Nick Tompkins and Kieran Hardy – fell just short.

There was precious little quality in a first half that England dominated, with their 12 points all coming from the boot of Smith.

England's best chance of a try saw them halted in front of the line before Charlie Ewels was penalised for a knock-on, although the TMO spotted Liam Williams had dislodged the ball, earning a yellow card.

Williams headed for the sin bin, yet England added only three points to their total through Smith's latest penalty in his time off the pitch.

The breakthrough try was suitably scruffy in the 43rd minute when Ryan Elias' lineout cleared all of his team-mates and allowed Dombrandt to steal in and score.

Wales' response was rather more impressive, with Adams found free on the left for one try before Tompkins exploited a gap for another, cutting the lead from 17 points to five.

England introduced Ben Youngs for a record-breaking 115th cap as they sought to stem the tide, although it was a further pair of fine Smith kicks that really eased the nerves.

A quick restart from Hardy to score with seconds remaining gave England one last attack to see out with the match on the line, but Eddie Jones' men held on.

Another slow Welsh start

A worrying trend of this Wales campaign has been their poor first-half showings. This was the second of three matches in which they have failed to score a point before the break.

Struggling prior to half-time is nothing new in this fixture, though. They have not led at the interval in any of their 12 Six Nations matches at Twickenham and are the only side with that miserable record.

Smith's boot the standout

Smith finished with 18 points, matching his previous Test best against Canada last July. On that occasion, however, his points came courtesy of nine conversions in a one-sided triumph; this time, with six penalties, his contribution was far more decisive.

The England fly-half also now leads the charts for points in this championship, 12 ahead of Melvyn Jaminet, with whom he had been tied heading into Saturday.

What's next?

Ireland will have the opportunity to nudge ahead of England when they host Italy on Sunday, but they are then the next visitors to Twickenham. Wales must attempt to halt France's Grand Slam charge in Cardiff.

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