Wales skipper Tommy Reffell says his team are ready to mix it with New Zealand after Cai Evans inspired them to an historic victory over Australia at the U20 World Cup.
Reffell’s team beat the Junior Wallabies 26-21 in their tournament opener in France at the World Rugby U20 Championship, more commonly still known as the junior World Cup.
It was a magnificent result for interim head coach Geraint Lewis and his team who had never before beaten the Aussies at this tournament.
Now, they must step up another gear to take on the Baby Blacks on Sunday in Beziers, but Reffell says his team will be confident – especially with deadly goal-kicker Evans in their ranks.
The son of Wales legend Ieuan Evans converted tries from centre Ioan Nicholas and replacement winger Joe Goodchild and slotted four penalties for a 16-point haul on the night.
Reffell said: “Fair play to Cai, he slots them all day in training so to see him do it on the pitch, on a stage like this, was fantastic.
“We said we weren’t just here to make up the numbers in the pool, we want to compete with the best in the world.
“Some of the backs in our team proved just electric they are and we are lucky to have them.”
Australia captain Ryan Lonergan admitted: “We really didn’t play the way we should have.
“We played in the right areas of the field, but we couldn’t execute any plays or build any pressure. Full credit to Wales they are a quality outfit.
“We can take (positives) that we were still in the match in the last play, even though we didn’t play the way we wanted to.
“We made a lot of errors that we shouldn’t be making so I guess that’s a positive, but it really is back to the drawing board. We need to fix those things because it’s not good enough.”
Wales avenged last year’s narrow defeat to Australia in Lewis’ first competitive match in charge of the team since taking over from Jason Strange.
Australia captain Ryan Lonergan kicked three penalties, while Mack Hansen and Tate McDermott scored tries with Isaac Lucas adding a conversion.
The Junior Wallabies went into the game with a 3-0 record against Wales at the U20 Championship and with high hopes of improving on their sixth-place finish at the two previous editions.
Up until the half-hour mark, their confidence looked well placed, Bayley Kuenzie’s pinpoint cross-field kick finding its way to Hansen for an 8-6 lead.
But Australia were never allowed to get into their rhythm, though, and Wales hit back when Nicholas showed a fair turn of pace to ground Ben Jones’ grubber kick just before it reached the dead ball line.
Lonergan then reduced the deficit with his second penalty but Wales found a quick response, Cory Baldwin slipping a tackle before putting Goodchild away. Evans expertly converted from out wide to push Wales two scores ahead, at 20-11.
Evans kicked a penalty either side of Lonergan’s next effort and the score stayed at 26-14 to Wales until McDermott and Hansen combined to bring about another nerve-jangling finish.