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Wales U20 beat Junior Wallabies on opening night

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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, making it 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.

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Collins’ stunner earns win for Veterans

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A STUNNING strike from Hakin left back Adam Collins ensured that the Veteran Vikings earned maximum points and remain top of the Welsh Veterans League after a hard fought 4-3 win at home to Coedeva Athletic last Sunday (Feb 17).

However, on a very windy day, the Vikings found themselves behind early on as Gareth Hinwood scored from the penalty spot.

Hakin were soon level though, when Stuart MacDonald set up Matthew Price to score from close range.

Richard Nash gave Hakin the lead scoring via a deflection and Paul Andrews levelled matters for Coedeva before the break, as his shot from distance also took a deflection.

Early in the second half, Michael McCarthy beat the Coedeva keeper to a ball to make it 3-2 from close range and almost immediately, Coedeva were level after another Gareth Hinwood penalty.

Inside the final quarter, a stunning left footed strike from Adam Collins found the top corner from distance to give Hakin the win.

Hakin next play on Sunday, March 3, at home to Swansea University in the semi-final of the Welsh Veterans Cup.

Hakin United: Jason Morgan, Nigel Armstrong, Richard Bland, Nigel Delaney, Adam Collins, Shaun Mills, Richard Nash, Stuart MacDonald, Michael McCarthy, Matthew Price, Leighton Edwards. Subs: Leigh Walters, Simon Rocke, Jamie Phillips, Gary Dawes.

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Saints do the double

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ST CLEARS completed the double over Neyland as they earned a 4-0 win on Saturday (Feb 16).

The Saints, who were forced into a re-shuffle at the back and without one of their midfielders, had beaten them 5-2 at home the previous week and Neyland would have been looking for some revenge.

However, it was the Saints who started strongly and took a deserved lead from a short corner. Jonny Thomas found Steve Thomas unmarked in the box and he headed home.

Both teams had chances to score but Saints keeper James Dickson made a few good saves to keep their 1-0 lead in tact.

The visitors eventually got the second goal of the game following good individual play by Will Evans.

Evans then added his second directly from a free kick to make it 3-0. They then rounded off a good day as Sean Seymour Davies latched onto a long ball to score and make it 4-0.

On Saturday (Feb 23), Neyland are away to Goodwick while St Clears welcome Merlins Bridge.

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Jones’ late drop goal earns win for Blues

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HAVERFORDWEST moved up to second place in League 3 West A on Saturday (Feb 16), as they beat Neyland with a late drop goal.

It was a tight game with both sides battling well but it was the Blues who went ahead early on as Craig Barnett scored a penalty.

Barnett then scored another soon after to put the visitors into a 0-6 lead and it remained that way until the half time whistle.

Early in the second half Neyland were back in it as they scored a penalty to make the score 3-6.

Mark Riley then put Neyland ahead as he was credited with a pushover try but the conversion was missed and the All Blacks led by two points.

Haverfordwest pushed on looking for a winning score and when a try wasn’t forthcoming the ball was sent back to Mikey Jones who kept calm to send a drop goal through the posts.

That put the Blues one point ahead at 8-9 and there was little time for the home side to respond.

The All Blacks do pick up the consolation of a losing bonus point but that will not do much to lift their spirits after they were dropped to fourth in the table following other results.

The Blues now sit second with Aberaeron breathing down their necks having played three games less.

There is no game on Saturday (Feb 23), as Wales take on England at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

The sides return to action on Saturday, March 2, when Haverfordwest host Llanybydder and Neyland host St Davids.

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