England and Wales arrived at Twickenham knowing that victory would be integral to their hopes of advancing from Pool A at Rugby World Cup 2015.
Both teams had won their opening matches, against Fiji and Uruguay respectively. But, with Australia waiting for them on consecutive weekends, any slip-up on the day could prove costly for either side.
This was the teams’ third meeting at a Rugby World Cup, but the previous two had both been quarter-finals — Wales winning in 1987 and England emerging victorious 16 years later.
Recent history was certainly not on Wales’ side. Warren Gatland’s team had not won at Twickenham since February 2012, and had been beaten 21-16 by England in Cardiff less than eight months previously.
Gatland could rely on the goal-kicking of Dan Biggar, however, and it was the Wales fly-half who opened the scoring with a third-minute penalty.
Biggar traded kicks with England No.10 Owen Farrell, before the latter nudged his side into a 9-6 lead with a drop goal and another penalty.
The hosts were now in the ascendency. Good work from Mike Brown and Ben Youngs created space on the left wing, which Jonny May exploited to score the game’s opening try.
Farrell converted and, although Biggar notched his third penalty on the stroke of half-time, England led 16-9 at the break.
The second half played out in much the same way as the first had done, with Farrell and Biggar taking it in turns to send penalties sailing through the uprights.
However, with England leading 25-18 and less than 10 minutes of the match remaining, Wales replacement Lloyd Williams — who had been brought on to play out of position on the left wing due to injuries — angled a kick into the middle of the pitch that caught out the hosts’ defence.
Biggar holds his nerve
Williams’ fellow scrum-half, Gareth Davies, won the race for the loose ball and slid in to provide the perfect finish under the posts. Biggar added the conversion to leave the scores tied at 25-25.
Having trailed for almost 50 minutes, the Wales fly-half then stepped up from just inside the England half to nudge his side into a slender, three-point lead with his seventh successful penalty of the evening.
England rallied but would pay a hefty price for captain Chris Robshaw’s decision to kick a late penalty to the corner, as the Welsh defence swelled to drive the hosts’ lineout into touch.
Wales held on to record the victory that would ultimately book them a quarter-final return to Twickenham, where an injury-hit team would lose 23-19 to South Africa.
“There were two good sides out there,” Gatland said. “I have a lot of respect for England – their players and their management – and that game could have gone either way.”
Seven days after defeat to Wales, England would lose for a second week in a row at Twickenham, this time 33-13 against eventual finalists Australia.
That result ensured that, despite a 60-3 win over Uruguay, Stuart Lancaster’s team would become the first host nation to exit a Rugby World Cup at the pool stage.