CARDIFF Feb 11 England coach Eddie Jones was mighty relieved after his team found a way to drag a win from the jaws of defeat in Cardiff on Saturday and praised the grit of his players after Elliot Daly’s 76th-minute try secured a 21-16 Six Nations victory over Wales.
Wales tested England in every department but England’s defence was superb, their replacements again full of energy and their eye for a try razor-sharp just as Wales finally ran out of gas.
“I was really pleased with our grit and we have now become a team that is hard to beat and even when a side beats us I don’t think they are going to beat us and that is what we want to be like,” Australian Jones said after a victory that took England’s winning streak to 16.
“We are gritty team with characters in there that don’t know how to get beaten and that was evident today.”
England started and finished strongly but the middle half of the game belonged to Wales, something Jones will look to address having also played second fiddle to France before battling back to win their opener last week.
“Our first 20 minutes we were two passes away from scoring three tries and the last 20 we showed outstanding composure to win that game,” Jones said.
“At stages in between I thought we were going to fade out of the game but we hung in there making tackles and Courtney Lawes is like a human ice pack. He has ice all over him after that many tackles and carries. Joe Launchbury as well. We have good characters in our team and young players which is even more attractive for us going forward."
England should win that game with ease based on Italy’s poor display against Ireland on Saturday, and with a home match against Scotland before the Super Saturday finale in Dublin, they have been made odds-on to secure back to back grand slams.
The last time Jones brought a team to Cardiff as coach of Australia they were beaten and he lost his job.
“You have to give Wales a lot of credit because that’s the best I’ve seen them play,” Jones said.
“It was only in the second half that we started to get our line speed better. In the first half they had almost a flawless attack and kept the possession for long periods of time and it was difficult get the ball off them.
“But I loved the atmosphere – it was a proper test match with fans giving you stick throughout the game.”
Wales coach Rob Howley agreed.
“The intensity and application of our players for 75 minutes was outstanding,” he said.
“We played with pace and accuracy, as did England. We defended heroically at times, but we just couldn’t get a foothold in the last 10 minutes and when we did, we didn’t execute as well as we could. England know how to win and we lost but it was a fantastic performance.”
The key moment came just after Wales had held England up on their own line and forced a turnover.
Jonathan Davies merely needed to find touch, but his kick stayed in bounds and England ran it straight back into space and Daly showed great pace to get over in the corner.
“We had to execute under pressure, and we didn’t but that’s test match football and you have to make sure when you’re in that position next time, you’re better for it,” Howley said.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)