Autumn Nations Cup: England beat Wales 24-13 to reach final

By Gareth GriffithsBBC Sport Wales at Parc y Scarlets
Maro Itoje urges on England's forwards
Maro Itoje urges on England's forwards in Llanelli
Autumn Nations Cup: Group A - Wales v England
Wales (7) 13
Tries: J Williams Con: Halfpenny Pens: Biggar 2
England (11) 24
Tries: Slade, M Vunipola Con: Farrell Pens: Farrell 4

England will face France in the Autumn Nations Cup final following a 24-13 win over an improved Wales in Llanelli.

Wales opened the scoring with a runaway try from centre Johnny Williams before a score from Henry Slade and two Owen Farrell penalties gave the visitors an 11-7 half-time lead.

Mako Vunipola added a second-half try, while Farrell finished with 14 points.

It was a seventh defeat in nine games for Wales coach Wayne Pivac, who saw an improved defensive display.

Wales are still though without firm foundations, with a struggling scrum and malfunctioning line-out which England punished in a game dominated by kicking from both sides.

The heavy England victory predicted by many never materialised, but the win for Eddie Jones' men saw them finish top of Group A.

This means they will compete for the title of this new tournament on 6 December at Twickenham against France, who topped Group B after defeating Italy 36-5 in Paris. The final will be played in front of 2,000 spectators.

Wales, who lost to Ireland before beating Georgia, are currently in third place in Group A, and will face Italy next Saturday in Llanelli if they remain in this position.

Scotland have finished second in Group B, with their opponent on the final weekend most likely to be Ireland as long as Andy Farrell's side do not suffer a heavy defeat to Georgia on Sunday.

Pool A

Contrasting circumstances

Wales and England were poles apart coming into the match. England were second in the world and Wales had slumped to ninth.

Pivac's first match in charge was almost exactly a year ago with victory in an uncapped fixture against Barbarians, but since then he has presided over only two victories, against Georgia and Italy.

Following Warren Gatland's departure, the decline from 2019 Grand Slam champions and World Cup semi-finalists later that year has been dramatic.

Wayne Pivac says Wales are slowly seeing the fruits of their labour

Eddie Jones' men clinched the 2020 Six Nations title in October and have carried their impressive form into this first Autumn Nations Cup, demolishing Georgia before overpowering Ireland at Twickenham last weekend.

The game was played in the backdrop of the strange surroundings of a Parc y Scarlets hosting a Wales and England encounter with no fans.

The Llanelli ground has become Wales' temporary home while Cardiff's Principality Stadium is decommissioned as a coronavirus field hospital.

So one of the most explosive rivalries was reduced to this raw rugby experience. It was hard to recall such a lack of hype surrounding this fixture and very few expectations Wales could win.

Wales have been more disrupted this autumn and made eight changes with scrum-half Lloyd Williams making his first international start for four years, partnering Dan Biggar at half-back.

Centre Johnny Williams and flanker James Botham kept their places in the team after making debuts in the 18-0 win over Georgia and teenage wing Louis Rees-Zammit was handed a second start.

England's scrum advantage

Wales prop Samson Lee conceded an early scrum penalty which Farrell missed before Wales took the lead against the run of play after the hosts had shown early resilience in defence.

Biggar charged down a kick from Slade before hacking the ball on for former England Under-20s centre Johnny Williams to score.

The score was checked by the television match official and referee Romain Poite kept to his decision of a legal Biggar charge-down. Halfpenny converted.

England struck back immediately with good work from Maro Itoje, Sam Underhill and Kyle Sinckler before Slade strolled over while referee Poite ignored claims of Biggar being taken out in the air in the build-up, despite protestations from Wales and being reminded about the incident by the TMO.

Try scorer Johnny Williams says Wales fans need to be patient as they build for 2023

Farrell again missed the conversion before Halfpenny failed with a long-range penalty attempt.

The England captain slotted over his first successful kick to give his side the lead before Elliot Daly put in a thumping tackle on Josh Adams to typify the first-half ferocity.

Wales prop Lee found himself on the wrong side of Poite and Farrell gave England an 11-7 half-time advantage following another scrum penalty.

England bench suffocates Wales

Poor Wales set-piece play with a crooked Ryan Elias line-out throw and creaking scrum gave England an early advantage with Lee replaced by Tomas Francis.

Wales responded with some dynamic defence to repel the England attacking maul.

The hosts were under constant pressure and Taulupe Faletau was carried over the Wales line by England flankers Underhill and Tom Curry.

This laid the foundations for the almost inevitable second try with attritional forward play finished off by Mako Vunipola and converted by Farrell.

The speedy Rees-Zammit showed how dangerous he is with rare possession and Biggar slotted over two penalties as Wales threatened a revival but they demonstrated little collective attacking intent.

England absorbed this and Farrell restored the visitors' dominance with two penalties.

The England replacements bench, including six forwards, made a telling difference in the final quarter as Wales were eventually suffocated.

Player of the match: Sam Underhill

Sam Underhill moves in on Nick Tompkins
Sam Underhill moves in on Nick Tompkins

The England flanker had a hand in both tries, dominated with his dynamic defence and is a key man in a very competitive back-row.

Line-ups

Wales: Halfpenny; Adams, Tompkins, J Williams, Rees-Zammit; Biggar, L Williams; W Jones, Elias, Lee, Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Lewis-Hughes, Botham, Faletau.

Replacements: Dee for Elias (48), Carre for W Jones (70), Francis for Lee (43), Rowlands for Ball (49), Wainwright for Lewis-Hughes (52), Webb for L Williams (49), Sheedy for Halfpenny (67), Watkin for Tompkins (74).

England: Daly; Joseph, Slade, Farrell, May; Ford, Youngs; M Vunipola, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Launchbury, Curry, Underhill, Vunipola.

Replacements: Cowan-Dickie for George (67), Genge for M Vunipola (67), Stuart for Sinckler (72), Hill for Launchbury (67), Earl for Underhill (74), J Willis for Curry (61), Robson for Youngs (76), Watson for Joseph (52).

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