England maintained their Grand Slam course with an attritional victory over old rivals Wales at a rain-lashed Twickenham on Saturday evening.
The Red Rose, seeking an historic third successive Six Nations title, edged past Warren Gatland’s far more inexperienced side to build on their opening-weekend rout of Italy.
Wales had come into the game on the back of a resounding victory over much-fancied Scotland and but for two moments of ruthless finishing by England wing Jonny May, they were more than a match for Eddie Jones’s men.
Much of the build-up had centred around Jones’ taunting of Wales fly-half Rhys Patchell who was making only his second start when compared with England’s creative and established trio of George Ford, Owen Farrell and Danny Care - the Leeds-born scrum-half who became England’s most-capped No 9 when winning his 78th cap from the start.
And England certainly targetted Patchell with their opening try, Care’s box-kick resulting in Jonathan Joseph pressurising Patchell and forcing him into a loss of possession which Farrell quickly turned into a kick-chase that May comfortably won.
A second try arrived on 20 minutes after a multi-phase move on the Wales line eventually led to a break from Farrell and a fine offload from Joe Launchbury which created an opportunity for May to dart over again.
Farrell kicked only one of the two conversions and after missing a penalty of his own, Patchell got Wales on the scoreboard with a close-range penalty after Wales had seen a try ruled out.
Handling errors dominated the breakdown throughout, with Wales coming out on top in the turnover battle. As the game wore on Gatland’s men grew into the game with Aaron Shingler taking the fight to heart of the white shirts with a break into the 22.
And then England were indebted to replacement Sam Underhill for denying Scott Williams a try in the corner after a flowing move which the Wales centre brought to a premature end by diving for the line too early; Underhill doing enough to ensure he didn’t slide over the line on the sodden turf.
A late Gareth Anscombe penalty cut the gap to six points and gave Wales a losing bonus point but England’s relief at the end was obvious among the players, and the Twickenham faithful, when Farrell kicked the ball out to mrk full-time.