Jonny May banked two early tries and England held on for a 12-6 win against Wales in a crunch Six Nations clash at Twickenham on Saturday.
The England winger dotted down twice in the first 20 minutes, with Owen Farrell adding the extras to the second of those scores to give the hosts a 12-3 lead in what looked like becoming a one-sided affair.
But the defending Six Nations champs were kept scoreless for the remainder of the contest as unforced errors and poor execution in worsening conditions halted promising forays.
The opportunity was there for Wales to upstage their rivals, but they too couldn’t produce sufficient continuity or tactical ingenuity to shift the momentum, and the visitors could only double their score in the second half with a Gareth Anscombe penalty.
Though some will view it as a dour Test match because of a 50-minute spell without any movement on the scoreboard, it was a performance to remember for May who, despite playing in 30 Tests, crossed the line for his first Six Nations try, and then added another at the end of the first quarter.
Wales battled hard and deserved more than just the Rhys Patchell and Gareth Anscombe penalties they had to show for their efforts.
The impressive Anscombe – a late call-up for the injured Leigh Halfpenny – was cruelly denied a first-half try by the TMO while only a fantastic covering tackle from Sam Underhill kept Scott Williams out in the second.
But it was England who held on in this low-scoring affair to make it two wins from two.
Eddie Jones remains unbeaten at Twickenham and his side are level at the top of the standings with the also unbeaten Ireland – although Joe Schmidt’s side are top on points difference.
England are on a three-match winning run against Wales and they came flying out the blocks in wet conditions.
Anthony Watson spilled the ball from the kick off, but made up for it by beating Patchell to a high ball and knocking it back to Owen Farrell and the Saracens man sent a perfect kick to the corner for the quicksilver May to slide on for the game’s first try after only two minutes and 22 seconds.
Farrell could not add the extras however while Patchell – after Halfpenny’s late withdrawal – also missed a long-range penalty.
But it was England, with Farrell and George Ford again dovetailing nicely, that were on top and as the pressure mounted a second try seemed inevitable.
The Welsh defence held firm for phase after phase until Farrell flung it wide to the left and Joe Launchbury produced a sublime offload before being pushed into touch and May was the gleeful recipient to go over for his second.
This time Farrell made no mistake with the conversion and England were 12-0 to the good after the first quarter.
The rest of the half was scrappy to say the least, man of the match Mike Brown near flawless under a Welsh kicking bombardment while Maro Itoje and Alun Wyn Jones – British & Irish Lions teammates in June – were getting re-acquainted.
Anscombe thought he had brought Wales back into it when was quickest to a loose ball following a clever Patchell kick but the TMO ruled he had not applied enough downward pressure.
Patchell did slot a penalty however and while Wales grew into the half, it was the hosts who went in 12-3 in front.
Sam Simmonds was forced to withdraw at half time meaning Underhill was introduced but it was England who started the brighter – Watson going close down the right after a half-break from Jonathan Joseph.
That was Watson’s last involvement however, the winger limping off to be replaced by Jack Nowell and Wales appeared to have weathered the storm.
Aaron Shingler went charging into the clear soon after and the Welsh kept coming, George North introduced for Patchell before the hour mark prompting a reshuffle in the backs as Josh Adams went to fullback with Anscombe shifted to flyhalf.
And it was Anscombe who was really beginning to influence things as the hour mark came and went.
Only an astonishing cover tackle from Underhill denied Williams in the left corner after Anscombe and then North had worked him clear down the left.
England were now on the back foot, but the kicking from hand of Ford continued to relieve pressure as Eddie Jones turned to his replacements bench.
Richard Wigglesworth was on for Danny Care while Ben Te’o came on for Ford, moving Farrell to flyhalf, but still Wales kept coming – North and Anscombe once more to the fore in outstanding individual cameos.
Anscombe’s late penalty trimmed the lead to only six points but that proved enough as England held on and are still on track to become the first team to win three Championships in a row.
Tries: May 2
Pens: Patchell, Anscombe
ENGLAND: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola
Bench: 16 Jamie George, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 George Kruis, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jack Nowell
WALES: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Bench: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Owen Watkin, 23 George North
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Reynal (France), Nic Berry (Australia)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)