Wales U20 beaten but not bowed
Wales Under 20 6 – 30 New Zealand Under 20
Wales were beaten but not bowed by New Zealand in this afternoon’s IRB Junior World Championship semi-final in South Africa. The young Dragons became the first team to beat New Zealand in the five years of this tournament, winning 9-6 in the Pool stages, but the reigning champions were too strong on this occasion, scoring four tries to nil.
Wales were understandably buoyed by their earlier victory over the Baby Blacks and began this game at a rate of knots. Tom Prydie kicked penalties after eight and 15 minutes to give Danny Wilson’s side a 6-0 lead and might have increased the advantage to nine had he have found his range at the end of the opening quarter.
Wales showed that their impressive, unbeaten run so far in this competition was no fluke and displayed great composure in defence and dominated the forward play. Even when New Zealand set up a wonderful opportunity to score, after a quickly taken free kick from Jordan Taufua, the Welsh backs bundled centre Jason Emery in to touch.
Ihaia West’s penalty, after Wales had been adjudged offside in midfield, halved the deficit 14 minutes before the interval, and two minutes later, another rampaging break from the New Zealand forwards resulted in a second West penalty.
At times, Wales were a touch aimless with their kicking – Tom Habberfield finding touch on the full when an opportunity to utilise his back division was most certainly a better option. That said, it was a Welsh performance full of vim and vigour with Cory Allen’s tackle on Emery an example of Welsh defiance and Matthew Morgan’s counter-attack from deep providing further confirmation of the team’s potency going forward.
Unfortunately, with two minutes remaining before the interval, Wales lost scrum ball and found themselves behind for the first time in the game. New Zealand set themselves up in front of the Welsh posts and blindside flanker Jimmy Tupou was driven over for a try West duly converted.
Only five points behind at half time, trailing 13-6, Wales conceded a second try two minutes into the second half through impressive centre Jason Emery, Ihaia West converting.
Wales had gained far too much confidence during this tournament to give up the ghost and minutes later put together a series of phases which saw the ball pass through almost every player’s hands, and taking Wales all the way to the New Zealand 5 metre line before giving away a penalty at the breakdown. Unfortunately for Wales, that hard work was to no avail and from West’s clearance kick, New Zealand gained a penalty from the ensuing line-out, kicked to touch and No 8 Taufua showed his strength to go over in the corner, taking the score to 25-6 on 60 minutes.
New Zealand’s fourth try came two minutes later, loose-head prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi going over from close range but despite further advances by both sides, the defences held up until the final whistle.
Wales Under 20 head coach Danny Wilson said: “We are proud of the boys, there was no lack of effort but at the end of the day, we are disappointed. We were beaten by a better side on the day, their breakdown was better than ours, but we certainly didn’t perform as we have in our other matches in the tournament either.
"Our accuracy was quite poor, we didn’t take the opportunities we had, whereas New Zealand took theirs. We had a real go at playing some rugby in the second half, but again, we weren’t accurate enough to put pressure on a good team.
“The score line is far from a disgrace against the four times champions, but the players have already stated they are determined to go out on Friday and win our final match to finish third in the world. That is something no other Welsh team has done and we will prepare as well as we have done for every other game in order to do that.”
Wales: Pens: Prydie (2)
New Zealand: Tries: Tupou, Emery, Taufua, Tu’ungafasi; Cons: West (2); Pens: West (2)