|England’s Steve Borthwick wins the ball at a line-out [GALLO/GETTY]|
England scored three tries at Twickenham to open the Six Nations with a 30-17 win over Wales.
England again gave away a string of needless penalties but the match hinged on a cynical trip by Wales’ Alun-Wyn Jones.
The lock stuck out a leg in the 36th minute to trip the charging Dylan Hartley and was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes, during which England scored 17 points, with tries by James Haskell and Danny Care, to open a 20-3 lead.
“It was stupid what he did,” Wales coach Warren Gatland said.
“It cost us the game.”
Tries by Adam Jones and James Hook closed the gap to three points but a second score by Haskell, combined with the faultless goalkicking of Jonny Wilkinson (15 points), brought England home.
In the earlier game, Ireland eased to a 29-11 victory over Italy
“I thought we played well at times and at times we didn’t,” said England manager Martin Johnson.
“When they came back into it we were under pressure but I was happy with the way we responded.
“Ultimately we finished it. Two years ago we were in similar circumstances and lost so to get 30 points against Wales is a good start.”
Wales showed flashes of brilliance but made too many basic errors and gave themselves too much to do after Alun-Wyn’s moment of madness.
The opening 30 minutes were something of a mess with both sides struggling to put together any cohesive movement.
Wales decided to let Hook take two penalties but he missed both, leaving England to claim a 3-0 lead with a Wilkinson penalty.
Wales, seeking their fourth successive championship victory over England, levelled when Stephen Jones took over the kicking duties before Alun-Wyn was sinbinned.
England immediately piled on the pressure and made it pay when flanker Haskell barrelled over for the first try.
Wilkinson converted to give England a 13-3 half-time lead.
The hosts wasted little time in extending that lead as captain Steve Borthwick stripped the ball away in the tackle to set up a move that ended with scrumhalf Care scampering over for a try.
Wilkinson converted for a lead of 20-3.
Buoyed by Alun-Wyn’s return Wales hit back as prop Adam Jones found himself as the last man on a left wing overlap and flopped over the line for a converted try after 49 minutes.
Twenty minutes of chaotic rugby followed with neither side able to take a grip and Wales, in particular, guilty of too many basic errors.
From nothing, however, Wales hit back as Hook, in his first start at outside centre in his 38th appearance, ripped through the English midfield to score a superb try.
Stephen Jones’s conversion closed the gap to three points but just as the Welsh fans were sniffing a famous comeback, Delon Armitage intercepted a Welsh pass and sent Mathew Tait clear.
Tait, at fault for Hook’s try, kept his head to flip an inside pass to Haskell to score his second try.
|Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip scores the opening try at Croke Park [GALLO/GETTY]|
Ireland eased to a 29-11 win over Italy at Croke Park despite a fairly unimpressive performance in the opening game of their Six Nations title defence.
Ireland never looked like being beaten in Dublin but showed only flashes of brilliance, mostly from captain Brian O’Driscoll.
Jamie Heaslip and Tomas O’Leary touched down to take the home side to a 23-8 half-time lead, with Italy’s only try coming from an uncharacteristic error by Ireland fullback Rob Kearney.
Ronan O’Gara kicked 16 points but was forced off because of injury, leaving replacement Paddy Wallace to kick the remaining three.
Former Australia rugby league international Craig Gower kicked Italy’s other points with two long-range penalties, although the margin of defeat could have been even narrower had the Italians managed to round off a last-minute move engineered by brothers Mauro and Mirco Bergamasco.
“Italy never gave up and their defence was really ferocious and stilted us at time,” Ireland flanker David Wallace said.
“Of course we wanted to score more tries but that would be a disservice to Italy.”