Dan Biggar guided an injury-hit Wales to a thrilling 28-25 World Cup win over England at Twickenham on Saturday as they twice came from 10 points behind to record a stunning ‘Pool of Death’ victory.
Wales dealt killer blows in the last nine minutes when reserve scrum-half Lloyd Williams’s brilliant cross-field kick was gathered by scrum-half Gareth Davies for a spectacular try under the posts.
Biggar – whose 23 points haul is a record for a Welshman against England – converted to level the match at 25-25 and Wales then won a penalty 49 metres out and fly-half Biggar’s penalty edged them into a 28-25 lead.
England won a penalty wide on the right with three minutes left but they opted for an attacking line-out rather than go for a tough shot at goal that would have tied the match.
Reserve hooker Rob Webber found his man but Wales drove England into touch and the visitors held out.
England coach Stuart Lancaster was understandably glum.
“Gutted,” said Lancaster who added that England made “dumb” mistakes to give away penalties.
“We were 19-9 up and going well but then there was ill discipline from us and Dan Biggar’s great goal kicking,” added the English coach.
Wales, hit by injuries before and during the match, saw fly-half Biggar land all his goal-kicks – his only miss came via a drop-goal.
England, who next face Australia, had only their own indiscipline and failure to put Wales away when on top, to blame for this reverse.
An injury to centre Jonathan Joseph in England’s opening 35-11 win over Fiji saw Lancaster re-shape his backline dramatically.
He brought in rugby league convert Sam Burgess into midfield for just his second Test start in rugby union and recalled Farrell in place of Ford.
After a penalty exchange between Biggar – kicking after full-back Leigh Halfpenny was ruled out before the World Cup started – and Farrell made it 3-3.
Biggar then missed with a long-range drop-goal effort before kicking a penalty to put Wales 6-3 in front.
But Farrell’s excellent drop-goal – increasingly rare in modern rugby – compensated for slow ball and levelled the match at 6-6.
A huge drive by England’s front row led to a scrum penalty and Farrell, who starred off the bench against Fiji, gave England the lead for the first time in the match at 9-6.
England’s forwards got on top in both the loose and set-piece, with captain Chris Robshaw starring at the ruck.
Their dominance was rewarded with a try in the 26th minute when, after it seemed the move had collapsed with a poor pass by wing Anthony Watson, full-back Mike Brown kicked on and regathered.
Ben Youngs found wing Jonny May in space out on the left and, with Welsh flyer Hallam Amos, sucked inside before coming out in a last-ditch effort, he went in at the corner and then narrowed the angle to make the conversion easier for Farrell, who added the extras.
England had breathing space at 16-6.
Another Biggar penalty cut England’s lead to 16-9 at half-time.
Lancaster brought on dynamic lock Joe Launchbury at the start of the second half in place of Courtney Lawes.
Farrell, justifying his selection, gave England good field position with a well-judged kick and kicked an ensuing penalty.
But Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies’ quick tap and go led to a kickable penalty and England, for all their dominance, now led by just 19-12.
Farrell was on target again to restore England’s 10-point advantage at 22-12 before fresh English indiscipline enabled Biggar to cut the lead with two more penalties.
As both sides emptied their benches, Wales centre Scott Williams was taken off on a stretcher.
Wales then lost two members of their back three in the 67th minute, Amos going off with an elbow injury and full-back Liam Williams concussed.
Another powerful scrum shove led to a simple penalty and Farrell eased England out to 25-18 only for Wales to hit back in gutsy and clinical fashion.