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Six Nations: Late penalty decides England-Wales thriller, Aussie ref in strife after denying Scots winning try against France

10th February, 2024
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10th February, 2024
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Battling England have fought back from a 14-5 deficit at halftime to beat Wales 16-14 in a scruffy but hugely physical Six Nations clash, extending a Welsh winless championship run at Twickenham that stretches back to 2012.

Wales led at the interval – for the first time at Twickenham this century – after a penalty try and a nicely-created second for flanker Alex Mann with England on the board via Ben Earl.

But in a disjointed second half, England gradually gained control, closing the gap with a Ford penalty and Fraser Dingwall’s try before Ford landed the winning kick nine minutes from time.

It was not a great performance by England, who had won only three of their previous 10 games at Twickenham, but, unlike the boos that rang round the ground when losing to Fiji in August, the crowd recognised the team’s endeavour and noisily acclaimed the victory.

England, who came from 10-0 down to beat Italy last week, top the fledgling Six Nations standings after two wins – matching their championship tally from each of the last three years.

“This is a team which stays in the fight, which finds a way. It is a young side and we have a lot to learn, but we will grow together,” England coach Steve Borthwick said.

“At halftime we were very composed and clear what we need to do and we had belief we would go on and find a way. In some ways we stepped forward and showed the depth of the squad in certain positions.”

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Wales were first on the board with a penalty try after England collapsed a maul – with Ethan Roots joining Ollie Chessum in the sin bin.

Despite being down to 13, England stormed back when Earl picked up at the back of a scrum and scuttled over. Ford failed to convert, though, as it was ruled he had started his approach when he took a step to the left, allowing Rio Dyer to hoof the ball off the tee – much to Ford’s fury.

Wales’s ambition paid off just before halftime when Tomos Williams and Tommy Reffell combined to send Mann over for a try that put the visitors 14-5 ahead.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 10: Fraser Dingwall of England celebrates scoring his team's second try during the Guinness Six Nations 2024 match between England and Wales at Twickenham Stadium on February 10, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Fraser Dingwall celebrates scoring his team’s second try. (Photo by Dan Mullan – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

England struck first in the second half via Ford’s boot after Wales gave away their first penalty in the 47th minute.

A desperate tackle by Tommy Freeman to prevent Josh Adams claiming a third try after a great burst by fullback Cameron Winnett.

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That proved vital as an England forward assault opened the way for Ford and Elliot Daly to send in Dingwall for a diving finish in the corner.

As England cranked up the pressure, Mason Grady deliberately knocked down a pass, earning a yellow and giving Ford an easy penalty to put England 16-14 ahead.

Wales, with only two championship wins at Twickenham in 36 years, launched a strong late assault but aggressive defence forced them back to leave Wales coach Warren Gatland ruing another narrow loss.

“It’s part of the journey we’re on,” he said. “I said to the players we have to be disappointed with that. ‘You should have won that’.

“We are going to be a good team, it’s just going to take us a little bit of time.”

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Squeeze on Berry over controversial call

Australian referee Nic Berry has controversially ruled out a last-ditch try that would have given Scotland victory over France in the Six Nations at Murrayfield.

A superb solo score from winger Louis Bielle-Biarrey led France to a 20-16 victory on Saturday – but the drama really centred on the home side being ruled to have been held up over the tryline.

Scotland believed they had crossed for what would have been the match-winning try with the clock in the red – but Berry did not agree.

The Television Match Official then took several minutes to review the footage and could not find conclusive evidence to overturn his decision, even though it looked as though the ball may have touched the turf.

It was initially grounded onto the boot of a French player, but then appeared to slip down onto the grass.

“We were celebrating in the coaches box,” Scotland coach Gregor Townsend told BBC. 

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“We could hear the TMO’s conversation with the referee, saying, ‘the ball was on foot, then the ball was down’ and then he changes his mind and says ‘stick with the on-field decision’.

“I don’t know what you can say. We felt we won the game. We saw the ball on the tryline.”

But the French captain Gregory Alldritt reckoned Berry and the TMO got it right. 

“The images are quite clear and I don’t see how he (Berry) can make any other decision,” Alldritt told reporters.

“We’ve been working for over three years to get the ball carrier behind the line, exactly like it was done. When we talk about details, that’s part of it. It’s nice to see it pay off.

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The win will be a mighty relief for France coach Fabien Galthie, who has come under enormous pressure following their dismal opening 38-17 loss to Ireland in Marseille.

Trailing by six points with 11 minutes remaining, Bielle-Biarrey had three defenders around him but a clever chip and electric pace he gathered to dot down and the conversion from fullback Thomas Ramos gave the visitors the lead for the first time.

Ramos kicked a further penalty as La Marseillaise rang around the ground, with centre Gael Fickou scoring his team’s other try in the first half.

Scotland dominated much of the match and led 13-10 at halftime thanks to halfback Ben White’s score, but could not turn pressure into points on several occasions, and were made to pay in a game they looked like winning for 69 minutes.

White crossed for Scotland’s only try after a sweeping move down the right wing involving debutant Harry Paterson and centre Huw Jones. 

Scotland were down to 14 players while flanker Matt Fagerson received treatment and France were able to use the width of the field for Fickou to canter in for their first score.

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The visitors were reduced to 14 players just before halftime when prop Uini Antonio produced a no-arms tackle and was sent to the sin-bin.

The visitors were dealt a blow when the outstanding Alldritt left the field on a stretcher with a nasty gash on his leg on 50 minutes, but he revealed afterwards: “I’m very good. The muscle is not affected. It’s just the skin that is opened but with a few stitches, we’re going to let it heal.”

© AAP

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