Late drama as Wales U20s shock New Zealand

Natalie Jones Community News, News

Wales Under-20s held on for a gripping 8-7 victory over New Zealand in a match that went down to the final kick in Rosario.

Fly-half Cai Evans had held his nerve to land a penalty with 40 seconds remaining, but Wales still had to endure a nervous wait as Baby Blacks No.10 Fergus Burke had to chance to snatch the win with a kick of his own in stoppage time.

Much to the relief of the Wales camp, Burke’s long-range attempt was pulled wide, ensuring it is Wales who will play off for fifth spot against either England or Ireland in their final match of the tournament.

The victory was based on a dogged defensive effort with Scarlets back-rower Jac Morgan to the fore.

Second rows Jac Price and Morgan Jones also put in big shifts, while wing Ryan Conbeer was a threat on the occasions he did get the ball, almost creating a Wales try from nothing in the first half.

The match had been suspended for an hour because of a thunderstorm in Rosario, with conditions playing a huge part in a nervy, error-strewn contest.

At that point Wales had led 5-0 thanks to an 18th-minute try from Ospreys centre Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, who took advantage of one of many handling errors by the Baby Blacks to hack through and slide over for the score.

With 28 minutes on the clock and with a storm brewing, referee Christopher Ridley opted to take the players off the field for safety reasons.

They returned an hour later and Wales managed to hold onto their advantage for the remainder of the half.

New Zealand piled on the pressure at the start of the second half, but Wales’ defence held firm.

Replacement Samipeni Finau was then shown yellow for a dangerous high hit on full-back Ioan Davies – he was fortunate it wasn’t a red shown by the man in the middle.

Wales looked to make the most of their numerical advantage, but coughed up possession within sight of the whitewash; fly-half Evans also missed with a couple of long-range penalty attempts.

Finally, the Welsh defensive dam broke on 70 minutes.

Poor discipline handed New Zealand an attacking line-out platform and from it, second row Tupou Va’ai drove over from close range, a try converted by fly-half Fergus Burke to put the Baby Blacks ahead for the first time in the match.

Then came the drama.

After New Zealand had infringed at a Welsh attacking line-out, Evans – who had missed his four previous attempts at the posts –  kept his cool from 36 metres out to put Wales ahead.

But from the kick-off, Wales were penalised as they attempted to run down the clock, allowing New Zealand and Burke one final chance.

Thankfully for Gareth Williams’s side, the kick sailed wide, prompting celebrations from the men in red.

The result means the Baby Blacks will finish outside of the top six for the first time in the tournament’s history.

New Zealand – try: Tupou Va’ai. Con: Fergus Burke

Wales – try: Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler. Pen: Cai Evans