'We were a bit shaky towards the end': Marcus Smith's England view
Player of the game Marcus Smith has saluted the close-run England win over Wales. Eddie Jones’ side appeared to be cruising to victory as they led by 17-0 early in the second half, but they were dragged into an epic tussle as the Twickenham visitors struck back with three tries and the 23-19 win wasn’t guaranteed until a late Maro Itoje turnover.
The manner of the victory suggested England had learned from the malaise of their opening-round loss to Scotland. Ahead 17-10 at Murrayfield after Smith had scored all their points, Eddie Jones hooked the rookie Test out-half with 16 minutes remaining instead of allowing him to see that game through to the finish.
In his absence England collapsed, going on to lose 20-17, but Jones allowed Smith to play the full 80-plus minutes versus Wales and it proved to be the right call as he helped them to secure the four-point win that keeps them in the hunt for the Six Nations title.
Voted player of the match for the second game running following his impressive showing in the 33-0 second-round win over Italy, Smith was pleased by the grit England had shown to hold off fast-finishing Wales.
“Yeah, we were a bit shaky towards the end,” said Smith in his post-game ITV flash pitchside interview. “We know how proud the Welsh team is and we knew they were going to come back but we stuck at it as a team, the leaders spoke well under the posts and we got the job in the end. It was close but we got it done.
“We just said, ‘Keep going, keep lifting the tempo’. The forward pack put us on the front foot really nicely. Harry (Randall) lifted the speed around the ruck. We were just a bit off accuracy-wise but we built a nice score. It was nice to go in the half 12-0 up or 15-0 up, whatever it was (9-0 followed by eighth rapid early second-half points).
“As I said earlier, we know how proud the Welsh team is, we knew they were going to have their patch and luckily we have built up a lead but we are going to have to look at that second half in the fallow week coming up and we will try and improve on that going into Ireland.”
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