Wales edge thriller in Cardiff

Wales managed to hold on for a 23-15 victory at the Millennium Stadium despite a brave second-half fight back from England.

Wales lead by just a single point at the break, but came out firing at the start of the second half as they raced to a 20-8 lead in the 53 minute.

England refused to give up brought themselves back into the contest with just over 20 minutes to go. England gave it everything they had as they looked to snatch an unlikely win, but the Welsh defence stood firm as they held on for their second win of the campaign.

In a tightly contested first-half, the hosts took an early lead when they were awarded a penalty by referee Jonathan Kaplan and flyhalf Stephen Jones made no mistake.

Martin Johnson’s men walked a fine line at the tackle point as the looked to slow the game down. England continued to test Kaplan’s patience at the breakdown and eventually the South African reached for his pocket and sent Mike Tindall to the bin for playing the ball on the ground.

To compound England’s situation, Jones slotted his second of the night to give Wales a 6-0 lead.

Both sides looked to gain the upper hand at scrum time and after some words and a number of resets, Kaplan penalised Phil Vickery for incorrect binding and this time Leigh Halfpenny added the three points.

England, despite being a man down, hit back as Paul Sackey put on his jet shoes as he beat two Welsh defenders to the ball which was kicked through by flyhalf Andy Goode after some good work by centre Riki Flutey.

Tindall rejoined the action and England enjoyed a good period of possession and Goode cut the deficit to just a single point with a well struck drop goal.

Wales held their lead through till half-time as the game ebbed and flowed with both sides struggling to stamp their authority on proceedings. One man who was having a tough time was Kaplan as both packs looked to gain any possible advantage at the scrums.

Wales came out flying after the break and should have scored through Halfpenny but for a last ditch tackle by Goode.

However, Goode failed to get to his feet and became the second England player to feel the wrath of Kaplan as the veteran flyhalf was sent to the bin. Jones popped over the resulting penalty and Wales lead 12-8.

Wales immediately made their numerical advantage count as Halfpenny ran in Wales’ only try. Jones added the extras and just like that Wales were out to a nine point lead.

England were eventually back to their quota, but Wales managed to extend their lead through yet another Jones penalty.

England, though, got themselves back into the contest through the impressive Delon Armitage who sold the Welsh defenders with a brilliant side step to score behind the uprights. Replacement Toby Flood chipped over the conversion to cut the lead to just five points.

Wales appeared shell shocked and England turned to the bench to inject some fresh impetus as they went in search of victory. But the Welsh backs used well placed kicks to peg the poms back in their own half.

With less then ten minutes to go Wales’ percentage play payed off when they were awarded a kickable penalty and Jones made no mistake giving his side and eight point lead meaning England would have to score twice to stand a chance a recording a famous victory.

Wales captain Ryan Jones gave England the chance two reduce the lead straight away when he failed to roll away after he had made a tackle. Flood, though, fluffed the opportunity and in the end Wales managed to hold on for a hard-fought victory.