Wales moved to the top of the world rankings for the first time in their history with a 13-6 win over England in Cardiff.
Eddie Jones’ side denied the Grand Slam winners that distinction with a 33-19 victory at Twickenham last weekend but that result was avenged during a largely uneventful pre-World Cup encounter.
George North scored the only try as Dan Biggar proved instrumental to Wales’ win – a timely answer to the criticism from former Wales and British and Irish Lions great JJ Williams this week, who said his country would not win the World Cup with the Northampton Saints man at fly-half in the wake of Gareth Anscombe’s cruciate knee ligament injury.
All the points acquired by an experimental England line-up came from George Ford’s boot, with Ireland awaiting Jones’ men next weekend.
An error-strewn opening from both sides contributed to there being no score until the 26th minute, with Biggar slotting over a close-range penalty after England crept offside at the end of a rumbling 13-phase move.
Wales’ number 10 was integral to the sole try of the match, stabbing a quick penalty out to Josh Adams following Anthony Watson’s yellow card for a deliberate knock-on.
England were unable to reset and another superb Biggar kick switched play to the left for North to touch down.
— Welsh Rugby Union (@WelshRugbyUnion) August 17, 2019
Watson returned from the sinbin at the start of the second half, as did scrum-half Willi Heinz after getting the all-clear from a head-injury assessment, and the visitors resumed on the front foot – a quickfire pair of Ford penalties trimming the deficit.
Leigh Halfpenny, who was a late inclusion at full-back after Liam Williams withdrew due to a tight hamstring in the warm-up, was off-target with an attempt from halfway.
Watson was hauled down six metres from the line as a blistering England attack own the right had Wales scrambling – Biggar’s huge hit on Maro Itoje preceding an offside call in the hosts’ favour.
Five minutes from time a successful Halfpenny long-ranger closed out victory and knocked New Zealand off the top of the World Rugby standings, despite the All Blacks’ 36-0 routing of Australia to seal the Bledisloe Cup at Eden Park earlier on Saturday.
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