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Rugby News

Wales claim top spot with win over England

Wales have moved in to top spot on the World Rugby rankings after defeating England 13-6 in front of more than 73,000 fans under a closed roof at Cardiff's Principality Stadium.

Both sides looked keen to play deep in their opposition's half early on in the match with the territory battle the dominant aspect of the game during the opening quarter, however errors from both teams at crucial times meant it wasn't until almost half an hour that the first points were registered.

The eventual Man of the Match, Wales fly-half Dan Biggar, was the first to add his name to the scoresheet when he slotted a penalty goal attempt in the 25th minute.

Just shy of ten minutes later and the home side extend their lead when George North crossed out wide after taking a cross-field kick from Biggar on the first bounce to run it over without worry.

However it was the manner in which the scoring chance was presented for the Welsh that had England players and fans asking questions, when Anthony Watson was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on while attempting to make a tackle.

The English winger had not yet left the playing field, as well as medical and water runners for both sides, when Biggar chose to take a quick-tap and kick cross-field for his right winger Josh Adams, who was unmarked.

Adams raced up field before being tackled and, just two phases later with an advantage being played in their favour, Biggar chose to kick cross-field for North who scored.

The try was awarded and the Welsh fly-half converted to make the lead 10-0 after 35 minutes, where it would remain through until the half-time break.

Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs was introduced in to the game following North's try, when Willie Heinz was sent to the changing room for a head injury assessment, which saw the No9 equal Leicester team-mate Dan Cole on 87 appearances for England as the club's most-capped international players for their country.

Heinz returned for the start of the second-half but was replaced by Youngs after just five minutes, at the same time fellow Tiger Ellis Genge was subbed for Joe Marler at loose-head prop.

With thirty minutes remaining, England captain and Leicester fly-half George Ford put the visitors on the scoreboard with a penalty goal from almost in front after a brilliant defensive effort at the breakdown from No8 Billy Vunipola, closing the home side's lead to seven points.

The Tigers No10 closed to the gap to four points just seven minutes later with another successful penalty goal attempt and England began to gain momentum and look more like the side that dominated their Welsh counterparts six days ago at Twickenham, helped along by Owen Farrell's inclusion from the bench  to see the Saracens No10 partner Ford in leading England around the paddock.

Ford's club-mate Youngs was also proving a much-needed injection of energy for England as the No9 kept Welsh defenders guessing around the ruck with his signature sniping style, while their long-time Leicester team-mate Cole remained the dominant front-rower on the pitch as he continued to show his worth at scrum-time overpowering his opposite number.

As the Cardiff clock ticked over the hour mark, Manu Tuilagi was used by England head coach Eddie Jones when he replaced Ford and Farrell was shifted to fly-half.

England struggled in Ford's absence to find their way through a more aggressive and energetic Wales defence and were forced in to their own scramble at times to hold out the home side as they piled on the pressure in attack.

A Maro Itoje intercept inside his own 22m line in the 70th minute sparked the visitors in to action, before again being let down by errors in attack around the breakdown.

Leigh Halfpenny, who was a late inclusion in to the match after Liam Williams was injured during the warm-up, extended the Welsh lead to seven-points with just five minutes remaining after he successfully landed a 45m penalty goal attempt much to the delight of the typically loud and passionate home crowd.

A late chance for England presented itself with successive penalties marching them up field and within 5m of the Wales try-line with less than sixty seconds on the clock.

But the home side had different ideas, as they drew on the strength of their supporters and the passion they had shown throughout the fixture to force a scrum-feed in their favour with a mammoth effort on the visitors driving maul from close range before finding touch after the siren to register the 13-7 victory and take the number one world ranking for the first time in history.

Speaking after full-time, Man of the Match Biggar said: "We didn't front up enough last week."

"It was a huge effort today ... the forwards were brilliant all day.

"To keep a world class team like England try-less is very special."

When asked about his side's new position on the World Rugby rankings, the Wales fly-half played a straight bat.

"I think we got caught up with that last weekend ... look, we just want to keep going about our business," said Biggar.

"It's nice to be where we are and hopefully we can continue on the good run."