Six Nations - England down Wales in opener

Fri, 04 Feb 21:50:00 2011

Two tries from Chris Ashton helped England defeat Wales 26-19 in an electrifying opening match of the Six Nations tournament at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

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England had not won in Cardiff since 2003 when head coach Martin Johnson was a player, but they got off to a flyer when Ashton crossed in the 14th minute.

After a cracking start that had it all - including fireworks - Wales switched off momentarily and were made to pay when Flood instigated the move by hitting empty space between Andy Powell and Sam Warburton to set up Ashton who was cruising in support.

Ashton's arched celebratory dive would not have looked out of place in Natalie Portman's Black Swan, although it was as inflammatory as it was graceful to the home crowd.

Wales kicked their first points from a penalty in the 23rd minute and should have taken advantage of the extra man four minutes later when lock Louis Deacon was yellow carded for reaching out into the scrum just metres from his own line.

The Welsh were plagued by ill discipline all night, highlighted by No 8 Andy Powell's penalty 10 minutes from the break which allowed Flood to kick England into the break 13-6.

Wales brought England back to 13-9 with another penalty, but Flood responded with one of his own to keep Wales at bay.

A yellow card to Welsh forward Craig Mitchell in the 47th minute played its part in Ashton's second try which came in the 56th minute.

Mark Cueto's delightful flick to Ashton on the right was too much for the Welsh defence who were stretched to breaking point as the moved shifted quickly across field.

With a 23-9 lead after Flood's second conversion, Wales needed something special and it came four minutes later when Jonathan Davies drew in Shontayne Hape and found Morgan Stoddart who grounded to the crowd’s delight.

With the match poised delicately at 23-16, Wales earned a penalty and Hook obliged belting over the ball to make it 23-19.

The crowd began to rise as time ticked away, but another error this time from Lee Byrne for not releasing gave substitute Johnny Wilkinson the chance to finish off Wales.

Taking up his trademark clench-stance, the Toulon fly-half made no mistake as he sent the ball over from distance.  

Off to a romping start in their Six Nations campaign, England will show no mercy when they resume against Italy next Saturday at Twickenham.

Wales' horror run continues and head coach Warren Gatland now has the task of trying to turn things around when they travel to face Scotland at Murrayfield on the same day.

Mark Pangallo / Eurosport

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