Wales U20 couldn’t maintain their winning start in Argentina as reigning World U20 champions condemned them to a 13-32 defeat in their second outing.
Two tries from Scarlets wing Tomi Lewis weren’t enough to help Wales as the power and fluency of the French, who followed up their 32-10 Six Nations victory with another convincing triumph over Dewi Lake’s side.
In the end, a stream of off loads by the French and more than 30 missed tackles from Wales allowed the champions to notch their second win of the tournament. Wales will now face Fiji in their final pool game on Wednesday.
Wales got off to a flying start and hit the front in the fifth minute when a brilliant midfield break by Ospreys centre Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler paved the way for the first of Lewis’ tries. Max Llewellyn and Ioan Davies provided the link play and it was a great statement at the start by Wales.
The Welsh line-out worked well in the first half and the defence that had kept the Argentineans at bay in the opening day win was well to the fore. But as the French won more and more possession they dominated the game and made life increasingly difficult for their Six Nations rivals.
By the break they had worked their way into the lead thanks to a penalty from outside half Louis Carbonel and then a try from the No 10 as he raced 20 metres to the posts to round off a thrilling midfield break by hooker Rayne Barka. He also added the conversion to make it 10-5.
Cai Evans then knocked over a penalty to cut the gap to two points before the interval, but Carbonel and Barka were at it again at the start of the second half. Barka had a 20 metre canter to the line ruled out by the TMO for a try five minutes into the second period before Carbonel unlocked the Welsh defence with a neat chip over the top on half-way.
Full back Alexandra De Nardi ran onto it and, after he was hauled down in the 22 by Ryan Conbeer, the ball was recycled and wing Vincent Pinto stretched out to score. That gave the French breathing space on the scoreboard and some freedom to play.
They went on to dominate possession and territory from thereon in and add two more tries before the end to snatch a vital bonus-point. Carbonel increased his side’s advantage with a 55th minute penalty and the third try came 10 minutes later when back line replacement Matthis Lebel went over wide out on the left as Wales run out of numbers.
Carbonel added the extras, but Wales made the most of their one big scoring opportunity of the second half in the 70th minute after Sam Costelow chased hard to force a five metre scrum in front of the French posts. The outside half replacement almost reached the line himself after the ball was one, but when it was switched from left to right the handling was good enough to earn Lewis his second try.
But just as they had done in the Six Nations meeting, the French bagged their fourth try in the last move of the match. A penalty was kicked to the corner and replacement centre Julien Delbouis crossed close enough to the posts for Carbonel to kick the conversion and stretch the gap to 19 points.