England’s success (only a third in the Welsh capital on their last eight visits) kept their hopes of winning the Guinness Six Nations title alive, although tournament heavyweights France and Ireland now loom large.
It may not have been pretty, but tries from winger Anthony Watson, prop Kyle Sinckler and center Ollie Lawrence underpinned a confidence-building win on the road.
Owen Farrell hit a penalty and converted (he also missed four shots on target), as England had enough in the tank to claim their first Principality Stadium triumph in six years.
Wales briefly led early in the second half through an attempted interception from winger Louis Rees-Zammit, converted by winger Leigh Halfpenny, who also kicked a penalty, but a build-up that was marred by the threat of players of Wales to go on strike, which was only averted 72 hours before kick-off and ended in a third successive loss in the tournament.
It was the first time in 16 years that Wales had been defeated in their first three Six Nations games, and now a potential decider against Italy in Rome looms on March 11.
Wales’ regional rugby financial woes are still far from resolved, however a clash that hardly happened could be an important step in England’s development under head coach Borthwick as they recorded their biggest win away home over Wales since 2003.
England came under immediate pressure when captain Farrell had a defensive clearance attempt charged by Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau, but the visitors cleared before their opponents could arrive in sufficient numbers.
Wayward kicking was a theme of the first 10 minutes from both sides, but England showed signs of calm as Farrell kicked a 48-metre penalty kick to push his team forward.
Wales showed plenty of intention, with Test debutant Mason Grady prominent, but they were undone by a clever England move after 19 minutes.
Winger Max Malins broke through Wales’ initial defensive cover, before the quickly recycled possession was worked wide and Watson finished impressively after receiving the pass from number eight Alex Dombrandt.
Farrell’s touchline conversion attempt hit the post, then Wales opened their account when Halfpenny hit an angled penalty as England led 8–3 at the start of the second quarter.
Wales persisted with aerial tactics, but that approach was meat and drink for England, as Malins and full-back Freddie Steward dealt comfortably with the barrage.
Farrell deflected a long-range penalty eight minutes before half time, but England continued to dominate the territory as Wales huffed and puffed, although they created nothing in terms of a clear attacking opportunity.
Wales finally moved when Rees-Zammit made a threatening half-break that brought them within England’s 22, only for Steward to halt their progress before another penalty was awarded by the home team and Farrell cleared.
Wales then attacked again but were unable to capitalize on the promising build-up play and England took a five-point lead at the interval.
But it took Wales just 45 seconds into the second period to erase that deficit when Rees-Zammit intercepted a Malins pass and ran 50 meters for an opportunistic try that Halfpenny converted.
Rees-Zammit’s ninth touchdown in 23 Tests underscored his finishing ability, but it took England just five minutes to regain the initiative.
Prop Ellis Genge ran aggressively into the heart of the Welsh defense and the England forwards did not need a second wild card to set up camp, with Sinckler crashing from close range and Farrell converting.
The game had suddenly come to life and Wales head coach Warren Gatland made his first changes as Biggar replaced Owen Williams and Saracens center Nick Tompkins replaced Josh Adams, with Test debutant Mason Grady moving to the wing
Another missed penalty by Farrell meant England were unable to pull away and the fourth quarter was inevitably hectic as both teams went for broke.
But England had the last word, with Lawrence crossing for a try with six minutes to go to leave them home and dry.