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Wales under-20 battle to heroic victory over Baby Blacks

Age Grade & Academy | 17th June 2019


A last-gasp Cai Evans penalty saw Wales under-20 claim a dramatic World Rugby U20 Championship victory over New Zealand in horrific conditions at Rosario'r Racecourse Ground.

Gareth Williams' side opened the scoring through a Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler try mid-way through the first half, but play was halted for an extended period due to an electric storm looming over the Santa Fe city.

Wales' defence proved heroic under the Kiwi pressure, but the Baby Blacks eventually found a way through to take the lead with only 10 minutes remaining, as Tupuo Va'ai crashed over for a converted try.

However, Evans, who had missed four attempts at the posts, stepped up with a minute remaining to regain his side's lead, as New Zealand missed a penalty of their own in injury time.

The win is Wales' second over New Zealand in the history of the Championship. The first came in 2012 and included current Cardiff Blues stars Ellis Jenkins, Matthew Morgan and Kirby Myhill, who skippered the side in Stellenbosch, with Danny Wilson leading the side.

Wales' victory also keeps them in contention for a fifth-placed finish and will face the winner of the second play-off between Ireland and England later this evening. Meanwhile, New Zealand are resigned to a first-ever finish outside the top six of the Championship.

Three Cardiff Blues academy stars featured in the starting line-up - Ioan Davies, Max Llewellyn and Ben Warren - while Teddy Williams and Ioan R Davies were named amongst the replacements.

While New Zealand enjoyed the majority of possession and territory in the opening exchanges, the Welsh defence frustrated the Baby Blacks, as they struggled to make a breakthrough, and the likes of Tommy Reffell and Dewi Lake contributed with key turnovers.

Gareth Williams’ side were unfortunate not to make a break in midfield as a chip from outside half Evans evaded the path of the chasing Llewellyn, but moments later they got the scoreboard ticking.

Llewellyn’s midfield partner, Thomas-Wheeler, took advantage of sloppy handling errors from the Kiwis to hack ahead and win the footrace to touch down in the corner.

New Zealand’s Fergus Burke failed to get them on the board from a penalty, and Wales’ stern defence continued to withstand the Kiwi threats.

Play was suspended for an extended period of time due to adverse weather conditions, as the threat of an electrical stormed loomed, but when proceedings eventually resumed, Wales managed to maintain their lead until the half time whistle.

The Kiwis came out for the second half with venom in their attack, but the Welsh defensive effort remained strong and effective.

The Baby Blacks could count themselves fortunate to escape with only a sin bin as Samipeni Finau put in a high and reckless shot on Cardiff Blues’ Ioan Davies.

In the wet and windy conditions, both sides were guilty of handling errors but Wales were unlucky not to open up an eight-point lead when Evans struck the upright from a long range penalty attempt.

With 10 minutes remaining, New Zealand finally broke through as Tupuo Va’ai powered over from close range, with Burke making no mistakes from the conversion to give his side the lead.

However, Evans redeemed his earlier miss to slot a dramatic penalty to regain Wales' lead with only a minute remaining on the clock.

As the clock struck red, New Zealand were awarded a long-range penalty of their own, but Burke's attempt swung wide of the posts to see Wales seal a memorable victory.