Eddie Jones said England needed to be more “ruthless” after accepting they had the “rub of the green” in a 23-19 win over Six Nations champions Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.
England seemingly had the game won at 23-12 entering the last minute only for Wales replacement Kieran Hardy to go over for a converted try.
There was still time for the match to restart, giving Wales a chance to grab a try that would have given them a remarkable win after they were 17-0 down early in the second half.
“It’s a very good win for us, plenty of resilience, plenty of toughness,” England coach Jones told reporters following a match where Wales outscored his side three tries to one.
The veteran Australian boss had only confirmed his side shortly before kick-off, with Elliot Daly replacing Manu Tuilagi after the powerhouse centre suffered a hamstring injury a matter of hours following Thursday’s announcement of the original match-day 23.
“We put ourselves in a good wining position in the first 50 minutes, had a period there 10, 15, 20 minutes where we were a bit untidy in defence and let them back in the game but for a young team there were some good signs out there,” said Jones.
“For a young team, we need to find a way to be more ruthless once we get in the opposition’s 22.”
England fly-half Marcus Smith kicked the hosts into a 12-0 half-time lead with four penalties.
And soon after the break, England were 17-0 up after No 8 Alex Dombrandt, a team-mate of Smith at Premiership champions Harlequins, had plunged over for his first Test try following Wales hooker Ryan Elias’ over-thrown line-out.
But Wales hit back with two tries in seven minutes through wing Josh Adams and centre Nick Tompkins before, after two more Smith penalties, Hardy struck to set up a tense finish in front of a capacity crowd of over 81,000.
The match ended when veteran scrum-half Ben Youngs, brought on as a replacement to win an England record 115th cap, kicked the ball dead.
“It’s a great tribute to his work-ethic, to his resilience, to his toughness,” said Jones of Youngs’ achievement in surpassing Jason Leonard as England’s most-capped men’s international.
Victory meant England, who next play Ireland at Twickenham in a fortnight, now have two wins from three games this Championship and are second in the table behind leaders France.
But Wales’ second defeat following an opening day 29-7 thrashing by Ireland all but put paid to their hopes of a successful title defence.
Next up for Wales are France, who will arrive in Cardiff after a dominant 36-17 win away to Scotland that kept them on course for a Grand Slam, with Welsh captain Dan Biggar warning: “If you give good teams head starts you’re going to be up against it.”
Wales coach Wayne Pivac said Scottish referee Mike Adamson had erred in awarding Dombrandt’s try, with the New Zealander arguing England’s Maro Itoje had barged Adam Beard illegally at the line-out.
“He was definitely pushed out the line-out,” said Pivac. “Unfortunately no-one picked it up and the try was allowed to stand.”
Pivac added: “It’s very disappointing to be two down from three games.
“We were disappointed with our penalties at the breakdown. We were always chasing the game and couldn’t get a foothold in it til late.”
Jones, however, countered Pivac’s complaint about Dombrandt’s try by saying: “It’s the rub of the green.
“We don’t complain when it goes against us, as it did in Cardiff last time (when Wales beat England 40-24). I didn’t see anything wrong.”