George Ford leads England to victory over Wales but Owen Farrell sees red | rugby union

A comfortable and insane win for an exhausted England could have come at a great cost. Owen Farrell’s red card has put his fly-half participation in their World Cup opener against Argentina in Marseille next month under a big cloud and manager Steve Borthwick could easily find himself without his captain.

Farrell was initially shown a yellow for a shoulder in the 63rd minute at the head of Wales substitute Taine Basham only for the penalty to be lifted by the televised match official under the new ‘bunker’ review system. The England captain may have few complaints and, given his past disciplinary history, may struggle to find much sympathy at the hearing in the days ahead.

Less than four weeks before the opening game of the Championship, Leicester’s half Jacques van Poortvliet also appeared to be a huge doubt after he was clearly troubled in the first half with a lower right leg injury. It did not look good and the England management may now have to make alternative arrangements.

Despite being reduced to 12 men at one stage, with Freddie Steward and Ellis Genji also in the bin, England somehow managed to seal victory in Farrell’s absence, courtesy of a 68th-minute close-range effort from Maru Etoge, a penalty and conversion. From George Ford.

Late drama notwithstanding, this was not an 80 minutes to cheer the English or the Welsh that a life-improving autumn awaited them on French soil. Merits of Barbie and Oppenheimer aside, this has often been a Saturday night horror show from a variety of perspectives. Had they lost, as seemed likely until Wales collapsed in the final quarter 17-9 with 15 minutes left in the game, England would have fallen to ninth in the world rugby rankings, below Australia, Argentina and Wales. They narrowly avoided this fate but for both sides this was often the latest head-itching afternoon.

Wales, with their XV changing so much, could at least claim a moral aggregate victory over two legs by a margin of 37-28 and four tries to one. On the flip side, they now have injury doubts hanging over captain Dewey Lake and eighth seed Tyne Plumtree, while Basham failed to assess his head injury and is set to miss next week’s match against South Africa. Warren Gatland would become frustrated by his group’s failure to produce the win that seemed within reach of the team and, along with his counterpart Borthwick, would realize that improvement would be required if their World Cup collections were not so treacherous.

England's George Ford takes a late penalty against Wales.
England’s George Ford takes a late penalty against Wales. Photo: Dan Mullan/RFU/The RFU Collection/Getty Images

These are strange days for English rugby union in all respects. Hope and glory? The latter had been in short supply for some time and stocks of the former had also dwindled. The talk before the match was about England issuing some kind of positive statement. Beyond the outcome, there was also a clear need to re-engage more hearts and minds. Back in the day when England either won or lost, patrons were still guaranteed to turn out in upbeat numbers. Now the sports market is more crowded and the options are less binary. Lionesses were people-watched in the pubs of Twickenham and there were even Hull KR shirts visible on Richmond High Street.

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In terms of entertainment, the Ashes series has also set a high bar. It was not helped by the promotional terms, then, that a printing error required all official match programs to be cancelled. Many of those present were left with no choice but to sit and wait for someone dressed in red or white to do something eye-catching.

Few can rise to the challenge of the first 40 minutes, as the game unfolds along largely generic lines. England were highly organized and played percentages, and Wales was sometimes willing to think outside the box and not just bowl Steward’s throat. England were, for the second consecutive week, guilty of coughing up the ball too often, and the premature departure of an injured Lake – the second successive game in which Wales had to make a forced substitution early – didn’t help either.

Can England, leading 6-0 at half-time from two penalties by Farrell, make it go a good or three? It should have helped enormously when Tommy Revell was sent into the sin-box less than a minute into the second half after the Georgia referee, Nica Amachokili, decided that the rash of Welsh first-half offense should simply not stop being important. due to a 15-minute gap in the dressing room.

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Instead, England’s discipline broke down completely. Genge, who won his 50th cap, was sent to the litter box within two minutes of coming on, and Steward, who was unfortunately sent off against Ireland in Dublin in March, may have been lucky to only see yellow after Josh Adams was sent off in the air wide on the left. Wales was later awarded a penalty and was soon given another gift.

Farrell, the only ninth man to be sent off to England, was always liable to have his yellow card swapped for a red, and it proved. Wales would certainly take advantage, and when Joe Roberts exploded and fed Tomos Williams with a gallop in the centres, away victory looked assured. Somehow, with the help of a crumbling Welshman, England dodged that shot but they will be very lucky if Farrell is now available to start their World Cup campaign.

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