Wales hits late to beat England 19-12 in 6 Nations
By STUART CONDIE
TWICKENHAM, England (AP) Wales scored the only try of the game with just five minutes left to beat England 19-12 at Twickenham on Saturday and keep its Six Nations Grand Slam campaign on track.
Wales trailed 12-6 early in the second half but leveled through Leigh Halfpenny's third and fourth successful penalty kicks before Scott Williams created and scored the decisive try.
The replacement center ripped the ball out of Courtney Lawes' hands, collected his own chip kick and raced over the line.
Halfpenny converted and then protected the lead with a try-saving tackle on David Strettle with the final act of the match.
Unable to see whether Strettle had grounded the ball, the referee referred the decision to video review, which took about 90 seconds to rule that the wing had failed to touch down as he rolled out of Halfpenny's tackle and across the line under pressure from Jonathan Davies.
"I don't know what to say," Williams said. "I thought our defense was superb today. England threw everything at us and it was tough but we stuck in there."
Halfpenny's tackle atoned for the missed first-half penalty that until then looked like undercutting Wales' hopes of building on fourth place at last year's Rugby World Cup. The Triple Crown was secured on Saturday and the Grand Slam was in sight.
Williams can also be relieved after he threw away the chance of a try just seven minutes before he scored. Wales created a three-on-one overlap but Williams ignored Halfpenny lurking unmarked outside him on the left and was tagged.
England flanker Tom Croft was whistled for not releasing in the tackle almost immediately afterward and Halfpenny struck his fourth penalty to make it 12-12 and set the scene for a dramatic finale.
While Wales heads into home games against Italy and France in buoyant mood, the losers can take satisfaction from a match in which they enjoyed long periods of domination against a more experienced and hardened opposition.
Manu Tuilagi's recall for his first appearance since the Rugby World Cup provided England with a genuine linebreaker at outside center, while Lee Dickson's selection at scrumhalf injected pace into the attack and helped deny Rhys Priestland the time and space to orchestrate Wales' attacks.
Owen Farrell continued to kick with aplomb, making four of five penalty attempts, the back row looked more balanced than in England's first two matches and Wales was forced to demonstrate its defensive discipline more than its trademark attacking verve.
Wales comprehensively dominated the first quarter, taking 72 percent of possession and twice coming close to forcing an opening try.
Strettle saved his side in the second minute with a fingertip tap tackle on George North after the giant wing broke the line. Strettle raced in off his wing to the middle of the park and clipped North's heels at full stretch.
Priestland then tried to find his other wing, Alex Cuthbert, with a crosskick behind the tryline but the ball rolled over the dead ball line to give England a reprieve.
The Welsh front row also forced their counterparts into standing up at the scrum but Halfpenny nudged the resulting penalty just wide of the right upright.
England responded by playing higher tempo rugby than any it has produced since November 2010's victory over Australia and surged into the Welsh 22 twice in the next 10 minutes - forcing a penalty each time. Farrell kicked both and added a third for a 9-6 halftime lead.
The home team's domination of the second quarter was such that Wales edged possession by just 52-48 at the break and relied upon Halfpenny's kicking to take advantage of England's resurfacing tendency to infringe at the breakdown.
England's only two tries in opening wins over Scotland and Italy came from chargedowns and there was almost another at the start of the second half. Lock Mauritz Botha blocked Priestland's kick with both hands but, although he was hauled down just short of the line, Priestland strayed offside and trudged off to the sin-bin as Farrell kicked for 12-6.
With the experience of playing almost all of a World Cup semifinal with just 14 men only four months ago, Wales responded strongly to the setback and played much of the 10 minutes it was a man down in England's half, Halfpenny trimming the deficit to three points with another penalty.
Farrell, Dickson, Tuilagi and Foden were all prominent as England kept moving the ball at pace but unnecessary grubberkicks in promising positions gave away possession on at least three occasions.
Farrell's run of faultless goal kicking ended with his fifth penalty attempt, a long-range punt from in front of the posts. He limped off soon afterward with what looked to be a pulled hamstring, watching Wales triumph from the touchline.
"We got to 12-all despite being down to 14 men," hooker Ken Owens said. "We kept playing and kept believing and got that bit of luck."
Wales 19 (Scott Williams try; Leigh Halfpenny 4 penalties, conversion), England 12 (Owen Farrell 4 penalties). HT: 6-9.
Updated February 25, 2012