Will Stodart of New Zealand tackles Josh Morse of Wales. Pic: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images for World Rugby

Ryan Woodman Vows Wales U20s Will Build On Agonising Defeat To New Zealand

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By David Parsons

Wales U20s captain Ryan Woodman admitted he felt “gutted” after his team let slip a big lead to lose to New Zealand in their opening match at the World Rugby U20 Championship.

But the skipper insisted his youngster would come back stronger, having run the Baby Blacks so close before losing by a single point, 27-26 in Paal, South Africa.

There was no escaping the feeling of ‘what if’ at the end of classic game of two halves as New Zealand fought back to win.

For a team that failed to win a game in the Six Nations a few months earlier, Wales stepped up back into the ring and had the Baby Blacks reeling at the end of a wind-assisted first half.

Wales scored three tries and led 19-5 up to that point and looked in complete control.

Their driving line-out was a thing of beauty. Lucas de la Rua and Morgan Morse dominated the breakdown area and there was pace, power and panache behind.

The young New Zealanders looked as though they were on the ropes, yet that was when they became even more dangerous. They came out swinging in the second half and stopped Wales from adding to their tally until a minute to go.

By then they had plundered three tries to edge into a 27-19 lead before Wales, full of character and fight, struck at the death from another driving line-out.

The try went to Sam Scarfe, who moments earlier had had a similar score ruled out by the TMO, and Dan Edwards’ touchline conversion cut the gap to a single point.

There was just enough time for the kick-off, but not enough time for Wales to conjure up another attack. In the end, they had to settle for two bonus-points ahead of their games against France and Japan.

“It was hard to replicate the same intensity of the first half in the second because they really came out firing with the elements behind them,” said Woodman.

“We were good with the ball and they did well to keep it away from us. In the end, it came down to a kick.

“I thought we played well and there were plenty of positives to come out of the performance. That said, there is plenty to work on and we are all gutted.”

De la Rua almost bagged a breakaway try in the opening minutes as the game got off to a breakneck start.

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He was hauled down a few metres short before New Zealand took the lead in the seventh minute with a try for wing Caleb Tangitau off first phase.

After that, though, the rest of the first half was almost totally dominated by Woodman’s Welsh side. Their driving line-out caused all sorts of problems and hooker Lewis Lloyd scored off one of them in the 21st minute to level the scores.

Six minutes later Dan Edwards performed a wrap-around move off another close-range line-out to score at the posts and then add the extras.

Lloyd then lost the ball as he tried to barge over from taking an erratic overthrow at a New Zealand line-out and the outstanding Morse was penalised for a double movement on the Kiwi’s line as he went for a try.

The Welsh No.8 made up for that near miss by sweeping up at the base of a ruck on the New Zealand line after Cam Winnett had been held short. He picked up and dived over to score a try that Edwards improved to make it 19-5 at the break.

New Zealand were in a whole heap of trouble, yet it took them only 15 minutes in the second half to regain the lead.

Tries from wing Macca Springer, back row men Sam Hainsworth-Fa’aofo and Che Clark brought them charging back into the contest and full back Harry Godfrey kicked a penalty to go with two conversions from outside half Taha Kemara.

Wales hardly got their hands on the ball until the final 10 minutes as New Zealand dominated the game with their physicality and profited from 16 penalties from their opponents throughout the game.

But Wales never gave up and shortly after Edwards pushed a 40 metre penalty into the wind wide of the post, Scarfe came up with his try.

If it was all too little, too late for Wales, the overall performance was proof enough they have made great strides since the Six Nations.

 

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