After an impressive start, Wales Under 20 failed to hold onto their early advantage as their World Rugby U20 Championship opener ended in a 26-25 defeat to Ireland.
- Keelan Giles scores two, one in each half, and Reuben Morgan Williams grabs one try
- Wales lead 17-0 in final quarter only to be overhauled by the Irish
- Giles' second gives Wales a chance to win it at the death but conversion is missed
The Six Nations Grand Slam champions raced into a 17-0 lead in the first 20 minutes thanks to scores from Shaun Evans, Keelan Giles and a free-flowing try from Reuben Morgan-Williams. But the Irish hit-back to cut the gap to 17-15 at half-time, before full-back Jordan Stockdale handed them a 26-20 advantage.
Flying wing Giles darted over for his second score at the death, but Jarrod Evans could not land the conversion from out-wide, and Wales begin their campaign with defeat.
Some ferocious Welsh defence earned a penalty after three minutes, but Dan Jones was off-target with his first attempt. But it did not take long for Jason Strange's side to get the breakthrough. A powerful shunt at a scrim earned a penalty, which Jones drilled into the corner. The pack drove the close-range lineout towards the line, before openside flanker Evans bumped off a tackler to burrow over for a 5-0 lead.
And Wales got their second through speedster Giles five minutes later. Jones delivered a perfectly weighted cross-field kick to Giles, who rounded his man to bag his first try of the tournament. The junior Dragons had clicked into gear after their Six Nations Grand Slam win, and Morgan-Williams finished a a free-flowing move to make it 17-0 moments later.
Full-back Rhun Williams sparked a lightning counter-attack before feeding Jones, who dummied his way through the defence. He then fed the Scarlets scrum-half, who sat a computing exam the day before the match, and he side-stepped his way over.
But Ireland came back into the contest at the end of the first-half. Outside-half Bill Johnston's drop-goal crept over, before they drove-over to score through Adam McBurney to cut the gap to 17-8. And momentum was firmly with the Irish as the clock turned red. Centre Conor O'Brien skipped through and fed full-back Jacob Stockdale, who dived over to cut the gap to two points at the break.
Jones got Wales back in the groove with a penalty two minutes into the second-period, but Johnston pegged them back. And Ireland took a 21-20 lead with another Johnston penalty. And the Ireland resurgence continued with just over 10 minutes remaining, when they span the ball wide for Stockade to score and extend their advantage to 26-20.
But Wales roared back as the clock ticked towards 80 minutes. After some heavy pressure, Jarrod Evans looped a pass over the on-rushing defence to Giles, who squeezed in at the corner. But Evans could not convert.
Wales take on Georgia at the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday and New Zealand at Manchester City Academy Stadium next Wednesday.