Wales U20 v Japan U20

STELLENBOSCH, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 29: Harri Houston of Wales U20 during the World Rugby U20 Championship 2023, group A match between Wales and Japan at Danie Craven Stadium on June 29, 2023 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. (Photo by World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Mark Jones Admits Wales Youngsters Must Improve After Japanese Jitters

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By Gareth James

Wales U20s coach Mark Jones has admitted his team had to work far harder than he wanted to gain their first victory at the World Rugby U20 Championship.

The 41-19 scoreline in Stellenbosch, South Africa, disguised the fact that with 15 minutes to go, Jones’ youngsters were actually trailing to a Japanese side reduced to 14 men.

A late flurry of tries made it a comfortable passage for Wales in the end, but Jones knows a big improvement will be needed for Wales to trouble France in their next pool match.

Wales lost their opening match by a single point to New Zealand, but France overpowered the Baby Blacks on the same afternoon as Wales were beating Japan, with the reigning champions beating the Kiwis, 35-14.

“Japan really fronted up, especially at the set-piece where they probably edged us out for large parts,” said Jones.

“We always knew it was going to take an 80-minute performance and the dam may burst eventually under constant pressure. I just wish it had burst a little earlier.

“We got what we wanted from this game in terms of points but our discipline was poor and we know we’ve got to go up another three or four gears when we face France.”

Wales and Japan struggled to deal with the torrential downpour at the Danie Craven Stadium, but in the end, the former handled the conditions best to seal victory.

Daniel Edwards’ penalty opened the scoring in the fourth minute to give Wales the lead. Archie Hughes scored the opening try off a flowing team attack on 17 minutes, and Edwards’ conversion saw Wales into a 10-point lead.

A sin-binning for Evan Hill halted Wales’ momentum as Japan capitalised with hooker Kouta Nagashima dotting down twice at the back of a rolling maul to take a four-point lead.

Kanjiro Naramoto converted both tries before producing a brilliant crosskick to winger Renji Oike to extend Japan’s advantage further.

Wales had the final say of the half when hooker Lewis Lloyd profited from a clever lineout play to power over the line.

Japan captain Yoshiki Omachi had his yellow card infringement at the breakdown upgraded to a red by the TMO bunker shortly after halftime, which gave Wales the numerical advantage which they made the most of.

Tom Florence went over the line in the 65th minute after a dominant scrum before the floodgates opened in the final six minutes, with Edwards, Bryn Bradley and Louie Hennessey each crossing the whitewash to see them to victory.

Defending champions France, from 2019, threw down a gauntlet on day two of the competition claiming a 35-14 victory over New Zealand in torrential rain in Paarl.

Posolo Tuilagi was the star of the show, scoring twice in a man-of-the-match performance, with pivot Hugo Reus converting all five tries.

It was New Zealand’s heaviest defeat in the history of the U20 Championship, surpassing the 12-point margin they suffered at the hands of England in the 2013 semi-final.

Les Bleuets’ pack set the platform for the win up front, and the backs profited as winger Theo Attissogbe opened the scoring. Tuilagi powered over for his first try as France led 14-0.

Scrum-half Baptiste Jauneau crossed for France’s third try, and while New Zealand looked to have scored through Che Clark, his effort was chalked off as his knee was in touch as the French took a 21-0 advantage into the break.

Referee Damian Schneider yellow-carded Jauneau in the second half, and New Zealand looked to have capitalised through Macca Springer. However, his try was disallowed after he led with his elbow to shrug off Attissogbe’s tackle and was also sent to the sin bin for his actions.

New Zealand earned a penalty try in the 58th minute to open their account, and they got another when Peter Lakai busted through three tackles to score, with Taha Kemara adding the conversion to make it 28-14.

Brent Liufau crossed from close range to close out the game, with Reus once again adding the extras to put the finishing touches on a stellar win.

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