In a controversy-laden encounter in Cardiff, Wales played the better rugby to, not for the first time at this venue, upset England. The score was 40-24 and, at four tries to two, looks clearcut. But even the Dragons’ Kiwi coach Wayne Pivac will admit his side got the rub of the green on two big decisions in which Wales scored.
The first was from a quick tap which saw wing Josh Adams cross in the corner off a Dan Biggar crosskick. England skipper Owen Farrell was furious at French referee Pascal Gauzere, who appeared to not give him enough time to talk to his team after conceding a penalty.
The second came when fullback Liam Williams scored off what seemed a knock-on by wing Louis Rees-Zammit in the lead-up. Farrell did not, however, endear himself to Gauzere with his aggressive interaction with the referee. But he will also feel that England was poorly disciplined in general through this tense encounter.
Wales fielded a very experienced XV, and soaked up the visitors’ attack with some gusty defence, forcing turnovers and marshalled by man of the match No 8 Taulupe Faletau and skipper Alun Wyn Jones.
Centre George North could toast his feat of being the youngest man to reach 100 Test matches, though his attacking opportunities were sparse.
Halfback Kieran Hardy darted like a startled rabbit for his try, which galvanised the Dragons in the second spell.
Former Hurricanes midfielder Willis Halaholo made a late foray off the bench for Wales, but the spark plug was reserve first five Callum Sheedy, who kicked five goals and ran with dash. He’s learning his trade at Bristol under the tutelage of Pat Lam.
England looked stodgy on attack again, and failed to exert its expected dominance in the forwards. This was Eddie Jones’ third loss since the 2019 Rugby World Cup final.
Ireland recorded its best display of the tournament, dispatching Italy 48-10 in Rome. Led by workhorse No 6 Tadhg Beirne, Ireland unleashed its offensive potential to run in six tries.
The mercurial Johnny Sexton thrived, slotted eight from eight for 18 points and running the cutter with aplomb. Inside him, former Maori All Blacks, Blues and Taranaki halfback Jamison Gibson-Park gave an energised performance, as did left wing James Lowe.
Italy again showed glimpses of a brave new expansive game plan under coach Franco Smith, but its accuracy was lacking and its defence was again porous. It is now 30 straight winless Six Nations games for the Azzurri, who are due in New Zealand come July.
Left wing Monty Ioane was full of running, and hooker Luca Bigi tackled manfully, but there was precious little else for Italian fans to enthuse over, other than a well-taken try to flanker Johan Meyer, fed by No 10 Paulo Garbisi.
The France-Scotland clash in Paris, postponed due to 11 Covid-19 cases in the French squad, has yet to be rescheduled.
Ireland 48 (Will Connors 2, Garry Ringrose, Hugo Keenan, CJ Stander, Keith Earls tries; Johnny Sexton 6 con, 2 pen) Italy 10 (Johan Meyer try; Paulo Garbisi con, pen) HT: 27-10
Wales 40 (Josh Adams, Liam Williams, Kieran Hardy, Cory Hill tries; Callum Sheedy 2 con, Dan Biggar 2 con, Sheedy 3 pen, Biggar pen) England 24 (Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs tries; Owen Farrell con, 4 pen) HT: 17-14
15 Hugo Keenan (Ireland)
14 Anthony Watson (England)
13 George North (Wales)
12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
11 Josh Adams (Wales)
10 Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
9 Jamison Gibson-Park (Ireland)
8 Taulupe Faletau (Wales)
7 Tom Curry (England)
6 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)
5 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
4 Adam Beard (Wales)
3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
2 Jamie George (England)
1 Dave Kilcoyne (Ireland)
Round four (NZT)
Italy v Wales, Rome, March 14, 3.15am
England v France, London, March 14, 5.45am
Scotland v Ireland, March 15, 4am