Manu Tuilagi’s late red card to leave England’s 33-30 Six Nations win over Wales briefly in the balance was not deserved, according to head coach Eddie Jones.
The World Cup finalists played some blistering rugby, with tries from the returning Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly and Tuilagi their reward.
However, frequent moments of indiscipline from the hosts helped to keep Wales in a captivating Twickenham contest and late scores from Justin Tipuric and Dan Biggar came after Ellis Genge was sin-binned and Tuilagi saw red.
The centre’s dismissal came after he struck George North’s head with his shoulder – a failure to wrap his arms on the winger sealing his fate after a TMO review.
“We were expecting a tough test right to the end and we got it, but when you get 13 against 16, it’s pretty hard,” Jones said, as quoted by BBC Sport, after his team’s Triple Crown-sealing victory.
“We’ve moved on as a team. You look at the Six Nations, we had a slow start, because as I’ve explained, I didn’t prepare the team very well, and since then we’ve been very good.
“We played well in Scotland in poor conditions, brilliantly in the first 40 minutes against Ireland and then a tough display against a good Welsh team.”
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) March 7, 2020
Nevertheless, amid this satisfaction, Jones was unable to let his gripes with referee Ben O’Keeffe lie.
“We trained on Wednesday … the whole session was 13 v 16, so we had some practice – we thought it might happen,” he said.
“Is that a red card all the time? Well, it’s not. It’s not refereed like that, but it was today. We’ve got to take that on board, but how else do you stop the player?”
Frustration was not solely the preserve of the England camp, with Wales boss Wayne Pivac accusing his team of being complicit in their own downfall.
“It was a game that we’re disappointed not to come out on top in,” he told ITV after a third defeat from four in the tournament for the reigning champions.
“We gave England a good start, we played a bit too much rugby and they were good enough to capitalise on our mistakes. After half-time, we started the way we wanted to, but we let England back in again.
“We’re our own worst enemies at the minute. We’re working hard behind the scenes to get it right over the 80 minutes, and I think we’re heading in the right direction. We’re contributing to the result in terms of too many errors. Next week is a massive opportunity to go out and try to rectify that.
“There are times you can see what we’re trying to do. In the second half, there were some good attacking raids with multiple phases when we put England under pressure. If we can do that for longer periods in games, and get our game management a little bit better, we’ll be in a pretty good space.”
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