England survived an early Welsh onslaught to warm up for their summer tour to Australia with a 27-13 victory at Twickenham that keeps intact the perfect start to Eddie Jones’ reign as head coach.
The Grand Slam champions were missing more than a third of their team due to the Aviva Premiership final between Saracens and Exeter, staged 24 hours earlier, but still possessed the firepower to topple their old rivals, who were close to full strength.
The try count read a comprehensive 5-1 in England’s favour with Anthony Watson’s remarkable first-half finish the pick, and they needed that ruthless streak on account of the abysmal kicking of George Ford.
It was another alarming afternoon for Ford, who is clearly short on confidence and if he is retained at stand-off for the first Test against the Wallabies in a fortnight it will be a mighty leap of faith by Jones.
Ford landed only one of his six shots at goal and, with Owen Farrell outstanding once more in Saracens’ Premiership-clinching victory on Saturday, the demand for a change at 10 for the Brisbane opener is hard to ignore.
Otherwise the sixth victory of Jones’ reign and Wales’ third defeat at Twickenham in eight months served as a confidence-boosting curtain-raiser to the more formidable challenge of facing the World Cup runners-up.
Try-scoring No 8 Jack Clifford, pictured, played himself into contention for a start in the back row, possibly at the expense of Chris Robshaw, who missed the game to attend his brother’s wedding.
The full debutant’s pace and power brought Twickenham to its feet on several occasions and along with Teimana Harrison, who was winning his first cap, he produced the display Jones was seeking. Luther Burrell did enough to replace the injured Manu Tuilagi in the touring party on the strength of his try, while man of the match Joe Launchbury put pressure on first-choice locks Maro Itoje and George Kruis.
A sold-out 80,000 crowd was given early sight of the dancing feet of Watson, but Wales quickly worked their way back downfield and in the sixth minute they surged ahead.
Toby Faletau broke from an attacking line-out, feeding Jamie Roberts who forced an opening on the angle and several phases later prop Rob Evans crashed over from short range.
The conversion and penalty by Dan Biggar propelled Wales 10-0 ahead, but strong runs by Mike Brown and Launchbury and the growing influence of Jonathan Joseph offered England sight of the whitewash.
Clifford won clean line-out ball and Burrell came sprinting up from inside centre to take the ball from Ben Youngs and crashed over while riding a tackle by Biggar.
The impressive Clifford counter-attacked from the kick-off with Launchbury on hand to assist, but England were suffering from a lack of direction by half-backs Youngs and Ford that was at least being offset by the exuberance of their forwards.
It was hard yards from the pack, a belligerent carry by Harrison and the instincts of Joseph that created a half-chance for Watson that the Bath wing grabbed with a stunning finish, as he placed the ball down with outstretched arms while on his back.
Wales’ defence was partly to blame for Watson’s try and it was also the same frailty that assisted Youngs in plundering another shortly after the interval, his side-stepping and strength taking him across the whitewash from the back of a line-out.
Three minutes later, England were over again as Clifford plucked a knocked-down Biggar pass off the ground and outsprinted centre Scott Williams in a 40-yard race for the line. A furious Biggar argued with Italian referee Marius Mitrea over the try, claiming the ball had been spilled forward by Dan Cole, but Ford was finally able to convert at the fifth time of asking.
Wales were penalised at a scrum, ushering in an error-strewn spell by the visitors topped by a charge-down that opened them up to a sweeping counter-attack that ended with Courtney Lawes expertly fixing two tacklers before sending Marland Yarde over.
England continued to dominate but were unable to cross again.