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by David Nicholson
WALES won a deserved Triple Crown on Saturday in Cardiff after they scored a record 40 points against England.
Winning head coach Wayne Pivac had come in for criticism during last year’s autumn Nations Cup as he has spent time rebuilding the team to play to his style.
“It’s well-documented that we chose to go down a bit of a development route in the autumn and build some depth in certain positions,” he said.
But they now stand just two games away from a Grand Slam, with a trip to Italy up next and then a final game against France.
Wales should make short work of the Italians and, on the evidence so far this championship, a victory in Paris is possible.
Where the home side were quick-witted and sensibly played the referee, England were unable to adapt to Pascal Gauzere’s interpretation of the laws and conceded 14 penalties.
While controversy will rumble on about the referee’s decision-making for the opening two tries for the home side, the current but down-and-out Six Nations champions will have to look at their discipline.
Pivac was asked about the controversial decisions but instead pointed to England’s penalty count, with Maro Itoje conceding four in the first half alone.
“He’s pushing the boundaries clearly but he’s a world-class player. Sometimes world-class players get away with a little bit more than others,” Pivac said.
Gauzere’s decision to start play after telling England captain Owen Farrell to talk to his team allowed the quick-thinking Welsh fly-half Dan Biggar to kick with pinpoint accuracy to Josh Adams to score the opening try.
Farrell reacted badly and was very hot-headed in the way he spoke to the referee. That is a flaw in his captaincy and there are calls for head coach Eddie Jones to drop him.
Both Farrell and Jones rightly declined to criticise the referee after the game, but did not fully address the discipline issue.
A very-annoyed George Ford was far more honest in his post-match interview. “I thought we played well, but our discipline was a real problem.
“That is something we have to look at and fix quickly as we gave nine points away in a very short period at the end of the game.”
Despite the two tries Wales scored in the first half, England had managed to draw level 24-24 by 60 minutes. This was game on and a mighty arm wrestle for the final quarter was in prospect.
But, as Ford noted, England imploded under the pressure and gifted three penalties to Wales in swift succession — and replacement fly-half Callum Sheedy cooly kicked to give his side a nine-point cushion.
A try for second-row Cory Hill completed the demolition of the champions, giving Wales a record score against England and the all-important bonus point.
A jubilant Pivac praised his side and said: “I am proud of the performance with a bonus-point win.
“We found another gear at 24-24 when England came back at us.
“We have already spoken about the importance of the next game. It would undo a lot of very good work if we didn’t focus on Italy.
“We have to make sure we go out there and put in another solid performance and hopefully get the points. The last weekend will take care of itself.”
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