A RED wave of defence – coupled with a tireless ambition to attack – led Wales to a World Rugby U20 Championship victory on Wednesday night (May 30) against the Junior Wallabies.
In holding on to win 26-21 at the Stade de la Méditerranée, Wales banished any memories of 2017’s last-gasp defeat to Australia at the same stage of this tournament.
The Aussies drew first blood in Béziers, however: scrum-half and captain Ryan Lonergan punishing a Welsh indiscretion at the breakdown with a third-minute penalty from just inside Wales’ 10m line.
A great phase of attacking play by Wales, with inside centre Ioan Nicholas the catalyst, then offered a glimpse of their willingness to run the ball from anywhere on the park. The opposition was subsequently penalised for coming in at the side of the ruck, and fullback Cai Evans’s power from the tee saw the ball sail through the posts for the equaliser.
Nearing the end of the first quarter, Wales lost wing Rio Dyer to injury, replaced by fellow Dragon Joe Goodchild. He would soon have a telling impact on proceedings.
At the conclusion of the first quarter, Australia conceded a penalty for failing to release. Wales fell just short with the shot at goal that would have nudged them ahead. However, Evans made no mistake when presented with a similar opportunity a moment later – albeit this time further out; on the halfway line no less – wowing the crowd with his long-range effort to make it 3-6.
Just before the half-hour, Aussie fly-half Bayley Kuenzie kicked a scrum penalty to the corner. A quickly-won lineout and a pin-point crossfield kick later, and wing James Ramm was acrobatically tapping the ball down in mid-air for incoming fullback Mack Hansen to score an excellent try. Lonergan’s conversion attempt was wide: 8-6.
Gone 30 minutes, razor-sharp Wales scrum-half Dane Blacker took a quick tap deep inside the opposition 22. The young men in red had their tails up now, and once the ball was in fly-half Ben Jones’s hand, the Cardiff Blues man wasted little in time kicking through a bouncing ball that was pounced on by Nicholas for the try. Evans converted to give Wales a five-point lead: 8-13.
The Junior Wallabies hit back with another Lonergan penalty, but there was a lot more to come from Geraint Lewis’s team.
A scintillating outside break and fend by Corey Baldwin set the Scarlets centre up for a one-on-one with the last man in defence for Australia, by which point replacement Goodchild was well in support for Wales’ second try with three minutes to go in the first 40. Evans’s excellent conversion from the touchline made it 11-20.
Two minutes into the second half, and the Ospreys fullback produced another cannon of a penalty kick – this one only marginally inside the Australian half – to take Wales 12 points to the good: 11-23.
The Junior Wallabies put their sizeable scrum to good use in winning another penalty in the 48th minute, allowing Lonergan to slot a penalty inside Wales’ 22: 14-23.
Both sides had started to test each other aerially, but a period of ten minutes’ deadlock – memorable for a fantastically determined carry by Wales number eight Taine Basham – ended when Evans’s metronomic boot took the scores to 14-26.
Wales, up fast in defence, and led by the imposing figure of lock Max Williams and a Trojan-like back row featuring Basham, Dan Davis and captain Tommy Reffell, led the way in frustrating the Aussies in the final quarter.
New caps Will Davies-King and Rhys Davies in the front row were two of the well-judged second-half replacements made by the Welsh coaches, countering the big men Australia had also introduced.
Never ones to go gently into the night, Australia roared back into the game with a try from replacement back Tate McDermott with fewer than three minutes remaining. Inside centre Isaac Lucas converted to make it 21-26.
Showing the same sort of dogged composure that earned them victory in Donnybrook during the U20 Six Nations earlier this year, Wales ran down the clock to seal a thrilling win.
Clayton comeback stuns Van Gerwen
PONTYBEREM darts ace Jonny Clayton pulled off one of the shocks of the Grand Slam of Darts as he came from three legs behind to beat world number one Michael Van Gerwen 5-4 on Sunday (Nov 11).
The 44 year old Welshman looked to be down and out with the score at 4-2 but he never gave up and went on to claim one of the biggest victories of his career.
Van Gerwen has won the last three Grand Slam tournaments and was firm favourite to pick up another win going into the second of their three game group.
Clayton threw first in the first to five legs match but it was the Dutchman who hit the first 180 before going on to break with a 94 checkout.
The world number 17 hit back though and after Van Gerwen missed the bull for a 128 checkout he took out 64 to level the game up.
However, Clayton could not back that up opening up with just 26 in the third leg before Van Gerwen hit 180 and 171 to leave just 16 which he checked out at the second attempt.
The Welshman had an excellent average of 115 at this stage but that was trumped by his opponent, averaging 122.
Van Gerwen then increased his lead with a 16-dart leg but Clayton seemed unfazed.
He hit his second 180 in the fifth leg and checked out on 80 to pull a leg back but a bounce out at the start of the next leg set him back again.
MVG hit another 180 and although he missed a 64 finish he took out double ten to make the score 4-2.
Clayton only opened the seventh leg with a ton followed by a 60 but Van Gerwen did take full advantage hitting a 140 before responding to Clayton’s 60 with a score of 58.
The Welshman then hit 168 to leave himself with just 16 and after Van Gerwen missed on 114 he closed the leg out to make it 4-3.
More low scores in the eighth leg from Clayton looked to put MVG in control but he then missed check outs of 76 and 16 to allow Clayton in to check out with 58 to level the game at 4-4.
Clayton had the throw in the final leg and hit 140 with his second throw before Van Gerwen hit just 97.
The Pontyberem-born Clayton then hit 137 to leave himself with 40 but MVG put the pressure on leaving himself with 74 if Clayton slipped up.
Clayton needed just two darts as he hit double top to secure a memorable comeback victory.
The Welshman said he was ‘Over the moon’ following the win and took to Twitter to thank those who had sent him messages adding: “Made up with that! Incredible to be part of a match like that and then to win it against a class act (Michael Van Gerwen) playing like that is absolutely brilliant.”
Clayton now plays the BDO’s Gary Robson in his last match of the group tomorrow (Nov 13) with qualification for the next round not yet secure.
Trallwm, Trostre and Bwlch through to round three
TRALLWM went through to the third round of the West Wales Cup on Saturday (Nov 3) as they beat Pwll Athletic 5-2.
Kris Brown scored a hat trick for the Tigers while other goals came from Rhys Watson and Luke Nicholas.
Carmarthen Stars were knocked out of the Cup as they were beaten 3-1 by Giants Grave. Richard Barnes, Dean Evans and Ross Hudson all scored for the Neath Premier League leaders.
C K Swiss Valley were also knocked out beaten 3-1 at home by Sandfields.
Pontlliw earned their place in the third round with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out win over Pontarddulais Town after their game had finished 1-1 after extra time.
Trostre Sports also eased through to the next round as they thrashed West End United 9-1.
Johnstown also earned their place in the next round of the tournament with a 6-2 win at home to Wern.
Bwlch Rangers came from behind twice to book their place in the third round of the West Wales Cup.
Opponents Penclawdd, who play in Division 1 of the Swansea League, took a two goal lead before Blwch pulled a goal back before half time.
In the second half the Rangers levelled matters only for Penclawdd to retake the lead at 3-2.
However, Bwlch showed their class to score twice more to see themselves into the next round.
Matthew Hughes scored twice for Bwlch while Mathew Williams and Jason Morris were also on target for the victors.
FC Carmarthen bowed out of the competition, beaten 3-1 by Loughor Rovers despite taking the lead in that game.
Seaside’s run in the competition also came to an end as they were beaten 7-3 by last year’s champions Goodwick United.
Dafen bow out to Maltsters
DAFEN Welfare bowed out of the West Wales Cup on Saturday (Nov 3) as they were beaten 3-0 by Maltsters Sports.
The Swansea League Division 1 side have won five, lost five and drawn one of their 11 games so far this season and they came up against a Dafen side who have just two wins and three draws from their nine games.
Kyle Morgan, Sam Keefe and Chris Hughes all scored for the visitors while they also did well to keep a clean sheet.
Maltsters’ Gareth Morrell was named as the man of the match for his side following an excellent display.
Dafen will now turn their attentions back to the Premier League and on Saturday (Nov 10) they are away to Evans and Williams.
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