England, who saw wing Jonny May twice cross early on for his first tries in the Six Nations, held on, with an Anscombe penalty three minutes from time too late to turn the tide in Wales’s favour.
England has now won 15 successive home fixtures in the Six Nations and the odds have shortened on a Grand Slam being up for grabs for both sides when Ireland visits Twickenham in the final round next month.
But defeat was tough on a Wales side who had a try disallowed by the video referee in a desperately close call.
Gatland’s England counterpart Eddie Jones offered a diplomatic response when questioned on the contentious incident.
The TMO looks at multiple screens and using the Hawk-Eye system gets to see replays on different angles.
Much of the build-up had centred around Jones’ taunting of Wales fly-half Rhys Patchell who was making only his second start when compared with England’s creative and established trio of George Ford, Owen Farrell and Danny Care – the Leeds-born scrum-half who became England’s most-capped No 9 when winning his 78th cap from the start.
“We’re very grateful that he (Eddie Jones) flagged that up – the fact that you be over-zealous and sometimes appear to go outside the spirit of the game”.
Halfpenny starred in the opening rout of Scotland, but a foot infection sidelined him, and without his nous Wales was immediately exposed under the high ball. Anscombe took play up to England’s 22, with Hadleigh Parkes’ grubber then bouncing away from Evans just before the tryline.
Farrell did miss the conversion, though, so praise wasn’t exactly universal for the 26-year-old as England missed the opportunity to take a more comfortable lead just minutes in. We won the aerial battles and the Ford/Farrell axis was ideal in executing our own ambitions to go long. Farrell saw it was on straightaway when the ball came his way and, instead of passing, he knew that May would be even more unsafe given a kick through to chase.
However, the Welsh were left to lament having a try to Gareth Anscombe ruled out by the television match official (TMO).
Wales coach Warren Gatland criticised the decision afterwards. “You get that habit by working harder than other teams, and we’ve got to continue to remember that”.
All Wales had to show for their first half effort was Patchell’s penalty.
Even when they did Williams was denied by Underhill’s heroic last-ditch tackle and England, with all eight replacements on the pitch, had just enough in the tank to hang on for their 24th win in 25 games under Jones.
Wales’s blindside flanker Aaron Shingler made a great break but Wales conceded a penalty at an ensuing ruck.
A lovely offloading move through the hands almost ended in a Scott Williams try in the corner, stopped only by a ferocious corner flag tackle by the brilliant substitute Sam Underhill.