Argentina claim semi-finals win against Wales U20s

Wales were unable to replicate the recent success of their senior counterparts against Argentina today, losing 15-39 in a fitfully entertaining match in Narbonne.

Wales missed a gilt-edged opportunity for points in the opening minutes as Argentina collapsed a scrum inside their 22. A 5m lineout was overthrown, letting the opposition off the hook.

Likewise, Argentina fly-half Joaquin De La Vega Mendia missed a penalty kick four minutes later that would have registered their first points of the game, and what ensued in the next 10 minutes was an arm-wrestle of a game in which Wales managed to give as good as they got, puncturing the Argentinean defence at intervals with some clever passes into space.

Almost quarter of an hour gone, De La Vega Mendia managed to atone for his earlier inaccuracy with three points after Wales were penalised at the ruck.

Wales were waiting for their moment to strike, and it came from a Welsh lineout outside the opposition 22. Wing Ryan Conbeer took the ball at speed and danced away from five defenders to score near the posts. Fly-half Cai Evans succeeded with the conversion to make it 7-3.

Argentina produced a magic try of their own entering the second quarter as wing Mateo Carreras, being quickly caught up by the chasing Corey Baldwin, kicked the ball back infield for scrum-half Manuel Nogues to score. Surprisingly, De La Vega Mendia failed to convert, but Los Pumitas now had a one-point lead. 

With ten minutes left of the first half, Argentina failed to release Baldwin well inside their 22. Wales then won successive penalties from a 5m scrum, but the referee was patient with Argentina. He told scrum-half Dane Blacker to play the ball on the third scrum, and three phases later Evans produced a tremendously accurate crossfield kick for Baldwin to score. Wales missed the conversion. 12-8. 

Unfortunately, there was no such leniency when Wales were defending a 5m scrum with the end of the half fast approaching, and Argentina were duly awarded a penalty try to go in three points ahead at half time.

A dream start to the second half for Argentina saw them score another equally eye-catching try, closer in style to their country's football team, and with the conversion good they held a 10-point advantage. Evans kicked a 53rd-minute penalty to make a period of Welsh territorial dominance count and draw his side within a converted try of the opponents. 

Argentina's supporting runners were really coming into play now, frequently getting them over the gainline, and they scored their fourth try just before the hour through openside Juan Ignacio Molina. De La Vega Mendia converted to increase Argentina's lead. 

It was an agonising final quarter for Wales, who turned down two penalty kicks at goal in order to go for the try but were undone at the lineout. They also saw a potential try-scoring pass intercepted. To add insult to injury, Argentina then kept the scoreboard ticking over with penalties in the 63rd and 73rd minutes. 

By some dire coincidence, Argentina twice hit the upright in going for a penalty kick at goal in the final minutes, and twice Wales knocked on trying to secure the bouncing ball. The second time, Argentina went wide from the scrum to score the final try of the match via wing Pablo Avellaneda. Bizarrely, the conversion hit the upright again, but this time went over for a score that would remain 15-39 at the final whistle, ending Wales’ hopes at a fifth place finish.