Chiefs pair help England to Triple Crown
By Mark Stevens
England remain in the 2020 Six Nations title race - for now at least - after they secured a 33-30 victory over Wales at Twickenham in a tetchy encounter on Saturday.
Tries from Anthony Watson Elliot Daly and Manu Tuilagi helped pave the way to their win, while a metronomic performance from the boot of skipper Owen Farrell, saw Eddie Jones' side - which included Exeter Chiefs duo Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie - clinch a first Triple Crown since 2016.
Wales had stuck in the contest via the kicking of Leigh Halfpenny and then Dan Biggar, before an outstanding Justin Tipuric try brought the game back to four points at the start of the second half.
Wayne Pivac's charges couldn't press on from there, however, and slipped to a third straight championship loss, despite facing 13 men for the final six minutes after Ellis Genge had been sin-binned and Manu Tuilagi red-carded - harshly - for a shoulder charge on George North - although the visitors did register late Biggar and Tipuric tries in that time.
England's title fate now lies in the hands of unbeaten France, who face Scotland in Edinburgh on Sunday, before they are due to host Ireland in Paris on Saturday, March 14 - a Test which could yet be postponed, just like England’s Round Five encounter against Italy in Rome.
Post-game, however, Jones broke his own rule about never criticising match officials when he described the late red card forTuilagi as "absolute rubbish".
England looked to be cruising to victory at Twickenham but were reduced to 13 men after a yellow card for prop Ellis Genge following a succession of penalties and the red for Tuilagi with around five minutes remaining as he crashed his shoulder into the head of George North while making a try-saving tackle.
New Zealand referee Ben O'Keefe had a long discussion with South African TMO Marius Jonker before ruling that although North was low to the ground, there were "no mitigating circumstances" that prevented him sending off the powerful centre.
Jones said things were made particularly difficult as it "ended up as "13 against 16". Asked to elaborate, he told journalists: "You work it out.
"I find it bizarre, I usually don't comment, but I don't see how you can tackle a guy. How else are you supposed to tackle him?" asked the Australian.
"This bit about where your arms are - what a load of rubbish. I think there's no common sense applied in that situation It's absolute rubbish.
"Clearly the guy's falling, there's a good chop tackle, Manu's coming over the top to kill the tackle and doing everything he's supposed to be doing - come on! "When you have a three-man advantage it's going to do some damage, so I thought we were exceptional. It was a good, tough win."
The Tuilagi tackle was the sort that was penalised relentlessly during last year's World Cup after a World Rugby directive. England were themselves the beneficiaries when Argentina's Tomas Lavanini was sent off for charging Owen Farrell 17 minutes into their pool game.
Wales coach Wayne Pivac simply said he thought Tuilagi's red card was the correct decision.
Once he had got the referee rant off his chest, Jones said he was delighted with the fight his team had shown, particularly with some of the squad struggling to train during the week and with replacement centre Slade having to fill in at full-back for most of the match after an early head injury to winger Jonny May.
"We are a better team now than at the World Cup," Jones said. "We can play sharp and quick but we can really tough it out and find a way to win too, and that's what pleased me today."