England edged to the brink of a first RBS 6 Nations title for five years with a 25-21 victory over Wales but were forced to survive a late fightback that evoked memories of the final-quarter collapse against their old rival at last autumn’s World Cup.
There was plenty of action in an exhilarating start by England that saw Dylan Hartley produce a terrific offload before Youngs was denied a try because of a knock-on.
George Ford took the wrong option as England pressed once more – the Bath fly-half had endured a poor start to the game – but the pressure was building and when Wales infringed Farrell was off the mark.
Turning to back rows James Haskell and Billy Vunipola to make ground and with Youngs sniping cleverly around the fringes, only desperate late defence from Rob Evans and Gareth Davies prevented Dan Cole from scoring.
The Welsh scrum buckled and Farrell was on target and when Dan Lydiate was penalised for not releasing and the lead had been extended to nine points as the first quarter passed.
England’s onslaught continued with Wales denied the chance to gain any kind of foothold in the game and after 30 minutes the only fault that could be levelled was that the score hailed to reflect the home dominance.
That changed quickly, however, when quick ball allowed Itoje to evade two feeble tackles before Brown drew Liam Williams and sent Watson over for his 10th try in 19 internationals.
Finally Wales hauled themselves into contention with Jamie Roberts determined to make something happen.
The half-time talk in the Welsh dressing room made little impact as runs from Brown and Nowell swept Jones’ men into the 22 before the attack ended with a penalty by Farrell.
When Wales won a penalty under the posts, they had little option but to signal for the scrum so great was the deficit.
After minutes spent searching for the breakthrough they claimed their prize, Ford taking too long over a routine clearance, Biggar charging down to score and then converting his own try.
The Welsh revival continued and Twickenham fell silent for a spell, but with Farrell adding two penalties in quick succession they had pulled ahead 25-7.
Cole was sent to the sin-bin for collapsing a maul, but in the same incident the Leicester tighthead winced in pain after receiving a palm in the eyes from replacement prop Thomas Francis so the penalty was reversed and England were able to clear their lines.
North went over for a try after Liam Williams offloaded in the tackle to Jonathan Davies and when Faletau crossed, Wales had two and a half minutes to the rescue the game but they had run out of time.