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.
Under strength Raiders beaten
By Sian Golden at Stebonheath Park
IF anything showed up the farcical registration rules inflicted by the RFL, it was Keighley’s club record win on Saturday (Sept 15).
Ordinarily a 112-6 rout would be celebrated, but West Wales were only able to field 12 fit players and after frustrating red and yellow cards, were down to 10 by the end of the game.
There are Welsh players who would have turned out, and perhaps the RFL should allow clubs to register community lads, who have never played professionally, to make up the numbers?
New Raiders coach Kim Williams arrives this week and his presence is much needed. It’s been a long season in Llanelli and, as plenty of arguing showed during the game, it’s a camp which needs a boost and fast.
Raiders held out for three minutes before Andy Gabriel caught Benn Hardcastle’s kick to score in the corner. Hardcastle converted.
Cameron Leeming tore through the defence to ground the second try with another expert Hardcastle sideline kick.
A short kick-off led to the third as Dan Parker raced down the wing, the fourth came from a catch by Emmerson Whittell from a high kick by Hardcastle, who converted, before another short kick-off led to the fifth, this one scored by Ritchie Hawkyard and converted by Hardcastle.
Jose Kenga was next over, Leeming got his second, and James Feather scored a length of the field try. Three more Hardcastle goals made the score 46-0 on 25 minutes.
The biggest round of applause came on 33 minutes when Raiders finally broke their duck with an Alan Pope scramble to the line. Harrison Elliot converted.
There was still time for two more first half Cougars tries. Andy Gabriel was too fast for the Raiders defence, and Parker also raced over for his second. Hardcastle converted both. 58-6 at the interval.
Alfie Seeley scored the first try of the second half with Hardcastle converting, but that was before the game turned into more of a charade when Craig Lewis saw red for alleged backchat, this surely prompting Raiders’ chairman Andrew Thorne to tweet “As a chairman of a club of a club losing is hard to take but when you have 14 men on a pitch it’s an impossible task.”
Hawkyard scored in the corner four minutes later with Hardcastle converting, and former South Wales Scorpion Billy Gaylor was next. Hardcastle missed the kick but got the next try, which he improved, before Chris Cullimore scored under the sticks, Hardcastle’s goal making it 86-6.
It was good work by Seeley, who weaved his way through the defence for his second, Hardcastle’s conversion bouncing in off the posts, but the game was to finish on 12 v 10 as the referee, who was evidently finding it tough to control the game, showed Hardcastle and Dalton Desmond-Walker yellow after a lengthy fight.
Gabriel claimed his hat-trick with Gaylor slicing the ball low under the sticks. Seeley sealed his hat-trick to take Cougars to 100 with Leeming also claiming his third. Gaylor, who was closer with his second conversion attempt, got this one over.
A length of the field Hawkyard try in the final minute gave him a triple and Gaylor’s goal brought down the curtain on the farce that Oscar Wilde would have been proud of writing.
Draw made for Bowl second round
THE draw for the second round of the WRU National Bowl has been made with a number of exciting ties to look forward to.
New Dock Stars’ reward for knocking out League 3 West A opponents Llangwm is another home tie against fellow League 3 West A side Llanybydder.
Former WRU Bowl Champions Amman United were given a walkover in the first round and they will be at home in the second round having been drawn to play South Gower.
Haverfordwest, who beat Pantyffynnon 69-5 on Saturday (Sept 15) have been rewarded with another home tie against Llangadog who won 50-14 away to Pontyates in their first round game.
Aberaeron, who beat Milford Haven in the first round, face a local derby with Lampeter Town who had a walkover against Pembroke Dock Quins in the first round.
Neyland, who had also had a walkover in the first round, have been given a home tie against Carmarthenshire side Cefneithin.
The two sides met in the same stage of last season’s competition and it was Cefneithin who came out on top on that occasion winning 25-3.
Laugharne have been drawn away to Trimsaran while Betws have also been drawn away to Cwmgors.
All matches will be played on Saturday, October 6.
Selected WRU Bowl second round fixtures:
Amman Utd v South Gower
Cardigan v Nantgaredig
Cwmgors v Betws (Ammanford)
Haverfordwest v Llangadog
Lampeter Town v Aberaeron
New Dock Stars v Llanybydder
Neyland v Cefneithin
Trimsaran v Laugharne
Wanderers snatch late victory
LLANELLI Wanderers earned their second win of the season on Saturday (Sept 15) as they beat Dunvant 22-19 thanks to a late try.
The powerful Dunvant pack helped their side to a 16-12 lead at half time but the Wanderers were still very much in the game.
Josh Leeds and Jordan Evans scored the tries for Llanelli while Rhydian Morgan added the rest of their first half points with the boot.
Dunvant held on to their lead in the second half as they defended well whenever the Wanderers came forward.
However, with ten minutes to go the tables turned as the Wanderers cranked up the pressure even more.
Gruff Mathias, making his debut for the senior side having played in the youth team last season, went up for a Dunvant lineout and he knocked the ball down for Ryan Tovey who went on to score what would prove to be the winning try.
Morgan then added the extra two points and they were able to see the game out for an excellent win.
On Saturday (Sept 22), Llanelli Wanderers will look for another win when they take on Gorseinon away from home.
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