U20s win as seniors go down fighting

Wales Under-20s defeated Georgia side 10-9 on Saturday to keep their World Rugby U20 Championship semi-final hopes alive, hours after the seniors had gone down fighting against the All Blacks.


In Manchester, Leon Brown muscled over to get Wales off to the perfect start, but Georgia's powerful pack and stubborn defence made it difficult for the Six Nations champions to build on their lead. Jarrod Evans kicked a conversion and a penalty to edge Wales to victory. Georgia scrum-half Gela Aprasidze landed a three of penalties to keep the Eastern Europeans in the hunt. 

After Ireland's monumental triumph over the All Blacks, Wales knew they would have to rack-up the points if they were to secure a semi-final berth. And their qualification bid got off to a flying start after four minutes thanks to young Newport Gwent Dragons prop Brown.

The tighthead bounced two defenders off to score from close range after some patient build-up play - and Jarrod Evans landed the conversion. But the much-changed Wales side failed to kick-on and were met by a stubborn Georgia defence.

The Junior Dragons could not find their rhythm in greasy conditions, meaning the scores remained at 7-0 with the clock past the half-hour mark. And there were warning signs moments later when the Georgia pack earned a penalty at a scrum, which scrum-half Gela Aprasidze kicked his for side's first points of the tournament.

The slight scrum-half landed another long-range penalty on the stroke of half-time after Wales had gone off their feet at a ruck, and Wales went in at half-time with a slender 7-6 advantage.

Front-row reinforcements Dillon Lewis and Corey Domachowski arrived at half-time to steady the Welsh scrum. The new-look front-row wrestle back the ascendancy at the scrum, giving Evans a penalty shot at goal. The Blues outside-half was on-target for a 10-6 lead after 56 minutes.

But Aprasidze landed another long range shot to claw his team back within a point with 15 minutes remaining. Dan Jones had the chance to kick Wales back into a four point lead, but couldn't find the target.

And Georgia almost stole it at the death when Aprasidze's penalty from the half-way line dropped inches short of the cross-bar with five minutes remaining.

Meanwhile, Wales scored more points than ever before against the All Blacks in New Zealand, led at the hour mark, but eventually became the 39th successive home victim of the double world champions. Warren Gatland had asked to be brave and bold and they were just that as they rocked the home heroes in front of a 46,270 at an Eden Park ground in Auckland at which they hadn't lost in 35 games stretching back to 1994.

But they found themselves trailing 18-15 at the beak and then by 21-18 after an hour. Then it became an all too familiar tale of a southern hemisphere team turning on the pace and power in the final quarter to steal the victory.

Three tries flowed from the All Blacks in those final 20 minutes as they got back into the groove in their first game since winning back-to-back World Cups at Twickenham seven months ago. New skipper Kieran Read was among those try scorers and the game had a cruel twist in the tail for Wales when Nathan Harris crossed in the left corner from a scrum in the 83rd minute.

First blood went to the world champions when Cruden kicked a simple penalty, but Wles responded quickly. Ken Owens picked up the pieces after Ben Smith had dropped a high ball and it was worked right to Liam Williams who carried deep into the home 22 on the right hand side.

Five crisp passes the other ay saw Hallam Amos release Taulupe Faleatu to dive over in the left corner for the first try of the game to give Wales a 10th minute lead. Having seen little of the ball in the opening five minutes, the Welsh nerves were settled by putting together some handling moves and when they had the ball they made ground and created gaps.

Cruden then ensured his forwards were rewarded for recycling an 11th phase of possession in front of the Welsh posts as he instinctively kicked to the left for Julian Savea to gather to bag his 39th test try.

Savea and Waisake Naholo on the other wing were a constant threat to the Welsh defence and Naholo was next to score after Smith had supplied a moment of aerial magic just outside his 22.

Dan Biggar put up the bomb, the home full back caught it in the air and then brushed aside two Welsh defenders before hitting the open spaces. He carried up to half-way before releasing Cruden on his right. A simple scissors move with his wing allowed Naholo to put his foot on the gas and speed to the posts for a try which Cruden improved.

Suddenly there was a 10 point gap and it was beginning to look ominous for Wales. But they didn't panic, stayed true to Warren Gatland's pre-match pre to keep on playing and soon got themselves back into the game.

Biggar landed two successive penalties in the space of four minutes and that visibly lifted the Welsh forwards.

Then came another great thrust from full back Williams, who cut his way through the centre of the All Blacks defence, carried up to the 22 and released Rhys Webb to race to the line and skip through Naholo's despairing tackle to score.

Biggar's conversion made it 13 unanswered points from the visitors and they almost got another score before the half-time whistle went. Even so, it was the first time the world champions had trailed at half-time to a northern hemisphere side since England went into the break 10-6 in Dunedin in 2014.

Cruden levelled matters with a penalty conceded at the base of the Welsh posts after the outside half had almost wriggled over, but then Biggar responded after an earlier miss. It meant Wales kept their noses in front until just over the hour mark - a minute longer than they had in Cardiff in 2014.

Quick thinking Aaron Smith tapped a five metre penalty and handed onto Naholo, who carried three men over the lie with him. Cruden converted and then added the extras to a try at the posts from new skipper Kieran Read to create real daylight for the home side for the first time since midway through the first-half.

Now the All Blacks looked like scoring every time they had the ball and only the intervention of TMO George Ayoub stopped them from increasing their lead. He ruled that Cruden's inside pass on the 10 metre le was forward and Wales heaved a heavy sigh of relief.

Moments later it was the home fans who were crowing when Faletau had what would have been his second try ruled out or being in front of the kicker as he raced onto the ball and 25 metres to the try line.