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England do enough to subdue Wales and secure top spot

·3-min read

LLANELLI, Wales (Reuters) - England had took much power and strength in depth as they overcame a spirited but limited Wales with a 24-13 victory in Llanelli on Saturday to secure top spot in Autumn Nations Cup Group A and set up a title decider against France at Twickenham next week.

A Johnny Williams try gave new-look Wales an early lead but they were second-best for most of a messy, largely forgettable match as Henry Slade and Mako Vunipola crossed for England and, after their powerful bench wrested control, captain Owen Farrell brought them home with four penalties.

"It was a dogged game, no-one could really get a foothold and we couldn't really get any momentum until the end," Farrell said.

England topped the group with 13 points from their three wins. Ireland, who play Georgia on Sunday, are on four points and are very likely to finish second, with Wales third, also on four.

In the decider at Twickenham next Sunday, England will play France who, despite fielding a largely second-string team due to club commitments, outclassed Italy 36-5.

England fielded their most experienced starting team, boasting 807 caps, while the Welsh, who broke a run of six successive defeats with an unimpressive victory over Georgia last week, had very much a side building to a new era.

The hosts struck first when Dan Biggar charged down a Slade clearance and kicked ahead, with centre Williams – who scored a try for England in a non-cap game against the Barbarians last year - first to the ball.

Slade made amends with England’s first try after man of the match flanker Sam Underhill and Kyle Sinckler made deep inroads and Farrell shifted the ball wide.

DISJOINTED EFFORT

England were on top for most of the half, though it was a disjointed effort, and could manage only two Farrell penalties to take them to the break 11-7 ahead.

England stretched the lead when Vunipola cleverly spun off the side of a tryline ruck but they were unable to build on that score in a messy period for both teams. Wales did gain some territory and earned two penalties that Biggar slotted to move within five points and spark hopes of an upset.

However, England quickly regained control on the pitch and the scoreboard as Farrell landed two more penalties to take them safely clear, and they finished in comfortable control without ever really threatening any fireworks.

"Today was like a bit of an arm wrestle, it was a tough old game and I don't think we've accelerated our rugby as much as we'd like to," said England coach Eddie Jones.

"There was one phase in the second half when we moved it really well but then lost our shape a bit and space is hard to find. We want a bit more fluency with the ball in hand and to play a bit more with some precision but we're not quite there yet. Certainly I'm really pleased with the boys' effort."

Wales coach Wayne Pivac was happy with the energy and defensive effort of his young team but complained about an in-the-air tackle missed by the officials ahead of England's first try.

"We're pretty disappointed with some of the decisions out there," Pivac said. "But there were a lot of young guys having a good game against the number two team in the world so they will have learned a lot."

Wales will return to Llanelli for their final game next Saturday, probably against Italy.

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond)