England suffered a major setback in their bid to become Rugby World Cup champions after Wales came from behind in the last ten minutes to claim a 28-25 win on Saturday.
The hosts had led 16-9 at halftime following Jonny May’s try, but were later unable to prevent Gareth Davies from crossing under the posts with eight minutes to go and equalizing, to set up a tense climax at Twickenham.
In the closing moments of the game, England crucially decided to kick for touch and line-out for the win rather than drop-goal for a draw, but the gamble failed as Wales read the situation with an expert eye to push their “pool of death” rivals into touch.
“That came down to myself. I spoke to others on the pitch and we wanted to go for the win,” England captain Chris Robshaw said of the controversial decision in the post-match press conference.
“Obviously it did not come off. It was a tough kick. We weighed up the option but we wanted to go for the win.”
England started ominously poorly by conceding two penalties in the first three minutes, and Biggar made use of the opportunity to land a kick between the posts to give his side an early advantage.
But if England had issues with penalties, it was nothing compared to Wales’ trouble in the set-pieces, as the first of many infringements in the scrum soon led to the hosts’ first penalty kicked by Owen Farrell.
Biggar missed an attempt at a drop-goal, but Farrell succeeded where his opposite number had failed to level the scores 6-6, though not after Mike Brown settled his own score with Sam Warburton over a tackle by Dan Lydiate on Tom Wood.
A third collapsed scrum by Wales gave Farrell his third penalty kick, but better was to come for England when a line-out ball was worked into space and Jonny May crashed over on the blind side for a try, converted by Farrell to maintain a 16-9 halftime lead.
England then returned from the break hungry for more points to sure up their lead, and on cue, Farrell stepped back up to swing his boot for another three points within three minutes of the restart following another Welsh infringement.
But the successes were not just one-sided as England might have hoped, and though the two fly-halves traded kicks to keep the game even, outside-centre George North demonstrated Wales’ still potent threat by running through to England’s twenty-two.
An unlikely break on the left wing by substitute Lloyd Williams changed everything, however, and his short punt to Gareth Davies who arrived down the centre at the line first gave Wales a lifeline try.
Man of the match Biggar converted, but it was his final penalty that sealed the deal, while England was left with one last-gasp play, yards from the try line to rescue the situation.
The decision was made and England prepared to play for the try instead of a drop-goal, but the plan unraveled from the line-out when possession was lost, to doom them to defeat.