By Rob Cole
He’s fast proving to be a chip off the old block, Cowbridge Comprehensive School and Ospreys outside half Cai Evans.
The talented teenager has big shoes to fill as he progresses through the ranks, but it was his trusty right boot that steered Wales Under 18 to an historic win over the South African Schools side in Cape Town as he kicked 20 points in a 30-28 triumph.
Back in the city where his famous father helped the 1997 British & Irish Lions win the first Test against the senior Springboks to lay the ground work for their 2-1 test series triumph, Evans junior joined his team mates in tackling his heart out and nursing his side through a tough challenge with magnificent game management.
Welsh wins over South Africa at any level are to be cherished and this one will have set up head coach Geraint Lewis’s side for a tilt at England and France next week. Two tries from Dragons back row man Lennon Greggains were also crucial in a famous victory.
Wales got off to the perfect start playing with the strong wind in the shadow of Table Mountain with a try in the second minute of the game. South African outside half Chris Schreuder chipped out of his 22 and livewire scrum half Harri Morgan snapped up the ball. He cleverly fed left wing Dewi Cross, who raced up the touchline before sending an overhead pass inside to the supporting Greggains for the try.
Evans had no trouble with the conversion and then added a penalty to make it 10-0. Wales coped superbly well with the powerful home pack and in their back row trio of skipper Tom Reffell, Dan Davies and Greggains they had a unit that hunted superbly at the breakdown and were all over the pitch in the loose.
The South African response to Wales’ early onslaught was a well worked try wide out on the right by full back Kennedy Mpeku, but that was all they could muster in a first-half that ended with Wales leading 19-5 thanks to three more penalties from Evans unerring boot.
Wales lost wing Tomi Lewis to the sin bin just before the break and did well to survive without conceded any points while he was off the field. They coped with the driving line-outs and picked off the speedy back line runners with some tremendous tackling.
Having ignored the chance to kick for goal in the first half playing into the wind, the Springboks used the boot of Schreuder to work themselves back into the contest with three successive penalties in the opening 10 minutes of the second half. That brought them back to within five points, but Evans responded with two more penalties of his own to reassert Wales’ authority.
The home side then lost Dylan Richardson to the sin bin in the 53rd minute for a breakdown offence and it didn’t take Wales long to capitalise. A great midfield break by Blues centre Ben Thomas, backed up by the dynamic Davies and lock Morgan Jones, took them up to the line where they earned a scrum.
With the home side down a player, Greggains cleverly opted out of the scrum and took up a position as an extra man on the blind side. Scrum half Morgan picked up and ran that way, delayed his pass and then sent the No 8 powering over in the corner for his second try.l
For once Evans couldn’t find the posts, but the Welsh lead had stretched to 27-14. Ten minutes later it rose to more than two scores as Evans made it seven out of eight off the kicking tee with his sixth penalty success.
The young Springboks threw everything they had at Wales in the closing seven minutes and saved face by scoring two tries. Replacement back row man Mark Snyman powered over from a five metre line-out for the first and then Morne Brandon sped away after a rare miss tackle by Wales.
Both tries were converted by scrum half Nkosikhona Masuku to cut the gap to two points, but that was as close as the South Africans could get to a wonderful Welsh team.
Scorers: SA Schools: Tries: K Mpeku, M Snyman, M Brandon; Cons: N Masuku 2; Pens: C Shreuder 3. Wales U18: Tries: L Greggains 2; Con: C Evans; Pens: C Evans 6.
Wales U18: Dylan Moss (Ospreys); Tomi Lewis (Scarlets), Tom Hoppe (Dragons), Ben Thomas (Blues), Dewi Cross (Ospreys); Cai Evans (Ospreys), Harri Morgan (Ospreys); Rhys Davies (Scarlets), Will Griffiths (Dragons), Ben Warren (Blues), Joe Miles (Blues), Morgan Jones (Scarlets), Tom Reffell (Leicester, captain), Dan Davies (Scarlets), Len Greggains (Dragons)
Replacements: Morgan Nelson (Gloucester), Jordan Walters (Ospreys), Josh Reynolds (Ospreys), Lewis Ellis-Jones (Scarlets), Ben Fry (Hartpury College), Taine Basham (Dragons), Callum Carson (Ospreys), Scott Lloyd (Scarlets), Tom Rogers (Scarlets)
South African Schools: Kennedy Mpeku (Golden Lions / KES); Qamani Kota (Griffons / Welkom Gimnasium), Diego Appollis (Blue Bulls / Garsfontein), Rikus Pretorius (Free State / Grey College), Muller du Plessis (Western Province / Paarl Gymnasium); Chris Schreuder (Free State / Grey College), Sanele Nohamba (Sharks / Durban HS); Nkosikhona Masuku (Golden Lions/ Parktown Boys High), Ruhann Greyling (Free State / Grey College) , Keagan Glade (Golden Lions / KES), Juan van der Mescht (Sharks / Glenwood), Cristen van Niekerk (Golden Lions / Monument), Vian Fourie (Western Province / Paarl Boys High), Phendulani Buthelezi (Sharks / Durban HS), Travis Gordon (Golden Lions / KES, Captain)
Replacements: Fezokuhle Mbatha (Sharks / Maritzburg College), Jordan Clarke (Sharks / Glenwood), Asenathi Ntlabakanye (Golden Lions / St Stithians), Celimpilo Gumede (Sharks / Durban HS), Adrian Alberts (Western Province / Paarl Boys High), Mark Snyman (Golden Lions/ Helpmekaar), Dylan Richardson (Sharks / Kearsney), Henco Martins (Western Province / Paarl Gymnasium), Jaden Hendrikse (Sharks / Glenwood), Yanga Hlalu (Golden Lions / KES), Conan Le Fleur (Sharks / Glenwood), Morne Brandon (Golden Lions / Monument), Banele Mthenjane (Pumas / Nelspruit)