Wales U20 off to a winning start

Young Ospreys half-backs Harri Morgan and Cai Evans guided Wales U20 to an impressive win over hosts Argentina, sharing 25 points between them in a 30-25 win.

It was ample revenge for their mauling by the young Pumas in last year’s World U20 Championships as they three times came from behind before beating the host nation at the Racecourse Stadium in Rosario on the opening day of this year’s competition.

Dewi Lake’s side stood tall against a passionate and physical home side, who had beaten Wales 39-15 in France 12 months ago, and tries by Morgan and Ryan Conbeer joined forces with Cai Evans’ boot to win the day.

Ospreys outside half Evans remained as cool as a cucumber from start to finish as he followed up his match winning 16 point contribution in last year’s opening game win over Australia (26-21) with 20 points from six penalties and a conversion.

Wales meet reigning champions France on Saturday before ending their pool campaign against Fiji next week. Then it is on to the play-off section of the tournament.

Aneurin Owen lasted only two minutes on his World U20 Championship debut when he was flattened in a heavy tackle, forcing Wales head coach Gareth Williams to send on Max Llewellyn.

There was better news a few minutes later for Williams and his coaching team when Evans stroked home his first penalty to take the lead after a driving line-out from the Welsh pack got to within inches of the home line. The Pumas strayed offside and Evans made the most of his chance.

The lead didn’t last long, though, as the pumped up home side hit back with an 11th minute try from prop Francisco Minervino that owed much to the chip and chase into the Welsh 22 by wing Matteo Carreras. Outside half Geronimo Priscantelli added the extras and then kicked a penalty to make it 10-3.

The home side were winning the gain line battle in the first half and caused Wales to dig deep in defence, yet by the break Lake’s men had worked their way into the lead. Some great work by No 8 Jac Morgan at the back of a turning scrum freed up scrum half Harri Morgan and he raced over half-way.

His astute kick over the top of the home defence was latched onto by speedy Dragons wing Rio Dyer and when he was caught in the 22 he lobbed a pass back inside to the supporting Harri Morgan, who side-stepped past the last man to score.

Evans missed his only kick of the match with his conversion attempt, but more than made amends seven minutes later when he kicked his second penalty. That gave Wales what had at one stage seemed an unlikely lead, 11-10, to take into the second half.

The Pumas turned a defensive scrum on their own 22 in a thrilling try at the other end of the field a few minutes into the second half. Having wheeled the Welsh feed to steal the put-in, they broke clear and kicked across field for right wing Rodrigo Isgro to score.

That was the third change of lead and two penalties in the space of three minutes from Evans’ boot, one of them a monster off the half-way line, edged Wales back in front on 50 minutes. Things got even better four minutes later for Wales when Argentina lost Ramiro Tallone to the sin-bin and Evans stepped up to hit the mark and make it 20-15.

But the home side weren’t finished yet and hit back with the try of the match from full back Ignacio Mendy moments after Carreras had been denied a try for a shove on Welsh full back Ioan Davies as he raced for the touchdown.

Mendy picked up on half way and somehow weaved his way past four defenders to reach the posts to claim a wonder try. Replacement outside half Joaquin de la Vega landed the conversion and the Pumas were back ahead at 22-20.

It was nip and tuck all the way to the end, but the decisive moment came when Scarlets wing Conbeer raced in to pick and go after a superb 20 metre driving maul by his forwards and stun the home defence with his speed. Evans had no problem with the conversion and then stretched the lead to nine points with his sixth penalty.

There was just time for the Pumas to claw back three points with a De la Vega penalty, but their final shot at glory from a scrum 30 metres out as the clock went into the red zone ended in a knock-on as the Welsh defence stayed strong.