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6N: Wales beats England 40-24, on course for Grand Slam

Wales stayed on course for a Grand Slam in the Six Nations after benefitting from two contentiously awarded first-half tries against England before finishing powerfully in a 40-24 win on Saturday.

Replacement flyhalf Callum Sheedy broke a 24-24 tie with three penalties from the 67th minute inside an empty Principality Stadium before Cory Hill scored a last-minute fourth try — earning a bonus point — for Wales, which followed up victories over Ireland and Scotland in the opening two rounds.

The Welsh secured the Triple Crown, but have their eyes on a much bigger prize with games to come at home to Italy then away to France.

Wales' Kieran Hardy, right, fends off the challenge of England's George Ford during the Six Nations rugby union match between Wales and England at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, Wales, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (David DaviesPool Via AP)

The Welsh powered to a 17-6 lead after 30 minutes, somewhat controversially. Firstly, winger Josh Adams scored in the left corner after receiving a cross-field kick from flyhalf Dan Biggar while England’s players were gathered around captain Owen Farrell and taking in water in front of the posts. French referee Pascal Gauzere had told Farrell to speak to his team after repeated infringements, and England’s captain remonstrated with the match official about the awarding of the try.

Then, fullback Liam Williams collected a ball that had been dropped by winger Louis Rees-Zammit and managed to ground it under pressure over the line. The TMO took a look at the try because Rees-Zammit appeared to knock on — the ball initially went forward off his hand only to then go backward off his leg.

England recovered through Anthony Watson’s try and a penalty by Farrell but Wales hit back for 24-14 when scrumhalf Kieran Hardy took a quick tap and scooted over as England fullback Elliot Daly switched off.

Referee Pascal Gauzere blows his whistle to award Wales a second try, following a video review, during the Six Nations rugby union match between Wales and England at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, Wales, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (David DaviesPool Via AP)

Another penalty from Farrell, followed by Ben Youngs’ brilliantly taken try via a dummy at the ruck, brought England back into the game again but Wales capitalized on English indiscipline in the final quarter.

The Welsh Grand Slam bid has come as a big surprise, considering they won only three of 10 games in 2020 under Wayne Pivac — and those victories were against Italy, twice, and Georgia.

Their wins over Ireland and Scotland in the Six Nations were narrow, and only came after their opponents each had a man sent off.

England's Jonny Hill reacts after Wales scored their second try during the Six Nations rugby union match between Wales and England at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, Wales, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (David DaviesPool Via AP)

England’s title defense is in ruins, having also been humiliated by Scotland at Twickenham in Round 1.

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Wales' Liam Williams front, scores his teams second try during the Six Nations rugby union match between Wales and England at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, Wales, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (David DaviesPool Via AP)

Wales'George North, inter is tackled by England's Owen Farrell, left and England's Jamie George during the Six Nations rugby union match between Wales and England at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, Wales, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (David DaviesPool Via AP)