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Wales beats England to go top; France wins too

Wales beats England to go top; France wins too

Wales stayed on course for a successful defense of its Six Nations title despite a hugely improved performance by England with a 23-15 win that took it to the top of the standings.
While France beat visiting Scotland 22-13 for its first tournament win this season, Wales took advantage of the indiscipline that led to two yellow cards for England to clinch victory despite being outscored two tries to one.
"We were in the game despite the penalties and the sinbinnings," said England manager Martin Johnson, who had never previously lost at Millennium Stadium in a career in which he captained his country to the World Cup. "There were opportunites out there for us to win the test match so it was disappointing we didn't take them.
"I was very proud of our effort but we've let a test slip away."
England showed more attacking intent than in its laborious opening victory over Italy and trailed by just a point at halftime, but Andy Goode was handed England's second yellow card of the match at the start of the second period and Wales immediately added 11 decisive points.
Stephen Jones struck the third and fourth of his five penalties and Leigh Halfpenny touched down to round off a swift counterattack to help establish a 20-8 advantage that England was unable to overturn.
Wing Delon Armitage scored a solo try _ England's second to just one for Wales _ and the conversion trimmed the deficit to five points but an overwhelming penalty count against the visitors handed the home side a crucial edge.
Jones hit his last penalty in the 72nd to finish with 15 points from the boot as Wales equaled the tournament record for eight consecutive wins.
But England can still count the performance as its best since Johnson took over last year. Joe Worsley tackled well throughout, keeping Wales center Jamie Roberts out of the game, Riki Flutey broke in midfield throughout and England's back three showed flashes of the pace and imagination that could trouble sides in the future.
Wales missed injured wing Shane Williams and seemed to labor under the unfamiliar pressure of being overwhelming pre-match favorite against its traditional rival.
"There are certain tags laid on us from outside but we just see ourselves as contenders," Wales captain Ryan Jones said. "We know we have to work harder than last year."
Wales had looked likely to dominate the game as it found gaps in the midfield from the start, with England showing the indiscipline that dogged its disastrous performances against the southern hemisphere nations in November _ conceding six penalties in the first 20 minutes.
Referee Jonathan Kaplan threatened a yellow card after just seven minutes and kept his word in the 16th when he sent recalled center Mike Tindall to the stands for 10 minutes for stealing the ball on the ground.
But losing 9-0, England surprised just about everyone by scoring the game's first try while a man down.
Flutey danced through the midfield on halfway and Goode kicked ahead for Paul Sackey to outpace Mark Jones, who was in the team because of Williams's absence, and touch down in the corner.
Goode missed the conversion but did manage a drop goal to make it 9-8 at halftime.
The flyhalf was sent to the sin bin a minute into the second half for going into a ruck off his feet and, after Jones succeeded with the resulting kick, Halfpenny got what turned out to be the crucial try.
Sackey was turned over on halfway and the ball was worked out wide to Lee Byrne, who drew in lock Steve Borthwick, who was the last man, and gave Halfpenny a clear run to the line.
Jones made it 20-8 and, although Armitage gave England some hope with 24 minutes to go when he dummied and cut inside past two tackles to race in from the 22 and score under the posts, Wales drew level with England on 53 wins from the teams' 118 meetings.
Wales moved to four points from two matches, two clear of England, Ireland and France, although the Irish can take a share of the lead if they win at Italy in Sunday's match.
Scotland stayed without a point in the championship after a 10th loss in 11 meetings with France but only after the home side was awarded a 46th-minute try that appeared to come from a forward pass.
A flowing move took wing Maxime Medard to within a couple of meters (yards) of the Scottish line but his pass in the tackle seemed to float forward into the arms of Fulgence Ouedraogo before the flanker touched down for his first international try.
The referee, though, could not tell and touch judge Wayne Barnes told him that the try was good.
Scotland had stayed in touch until then but the conversion took the score to 13-3, which turned out to be a decisive margin.
The French stretched their lead to 19-6, making wing Thom Evans' first try for Scotland almost meaningless. Chris Paterson converted but Lionel Beauxis' fifth penalty took his tally to 17 points and completed the scoring.


Updated : 2021-10-20 03:37 GMT+08:00