Wales edged a dramatic contest to defeat New Zealand 8-7 at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Rosario, Argentina, on Monday afternoon.
All of Wales’ points came from young Ospreys as Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler’s early try was followed by a late penalty from Cai Evans to take Wales into the fifth place play-off.
Thomas-Wheeler’s opportunistic score had given Wales an early advantage before the game was delayed for an hour due to an electrical storm overhead.
Tupou Va’ai looked to have snatched it for New Zealand when he crashed over nine minutes from time, but Evans kicked Wales to an historic result.
Pouring rain and loud claps of thunder welcomed the players on to the Rosario racecourse ground.
New Zealand were the first team to wrestle control of the ball in the challenging conditions, but important steals from captain Dewi Lake and No 8 Jac Morgan kept the Baby Blacks at bay.
Both teams were struggling to maintain possession for long spells as the rain continued to hammer down.
But it was Wales who worked the conditions to their advantage when Thomas-Wheeler pounced on a New Zealand error to put Wales in-front with an opportunistic score.
The Wales centre got his boot to a knock-on in midfield and put the pressure on the scrambling defence.
All Blacks’ flanker Kaylum Boshier made a mess of gathering the ball and Thomas-Wheeler capitalised, nudging the ball forward with his boot before diving on the ball over the line.
With Wales leading 5-0 after 28 minutes and the eye of the storm brooding overhead, referee Christophe Ridley pulled the players off the pitch while the adverse weather passed.
When they came back on, Wales had to weather a Kiwi storm, but they held firm to maintain their advantage at the break.
Williams’ side made 96 tackles to New Zealand’s 35 during a monumental first-half effort, but they looked the team more likely to kick on and extend their lead.
With the rain still teeming down, Evans missed a series of long-range penalties and errors close to the Baby Blacks’ line prevented a crucial try that would have taken them two scores clear.
New Zealand’s Samipeni Finau saw yellow, but was lucky to escape red for a shoulder to the head of Wales full-back Ioan Davies.
It looked like Wales were going to be made to pay for their missed opportunities when New Zealand shunted a short range drive just short of the line and Va’ai scooped up the ball and crashed over from close range.
Fergus Burke converted, and Wales had to find something in the final five minutes.
They did just that as they crept downfield and forced their opponents into conceding a catalogue of penalties.
When the referee awarded one in Evans’ range, the outside-half showed no hesitation in pointing to the posts and he held his nerve to kick Wales into a 8-7 lead with a minute to go.
It came after a series of earlier misses.
There was still time for one final twist as Wales were penalised for holding on from the restart.
It gave Burke the chance to snatch it at the death, but the Kiwi playmaker dragged his kick wide from 49 metres to spark wild celebrations amongst the Wales players.