By Tom Jenkins
Two games, no points and Wales U20 are rock bottom of the Six Nations table after a record four successive tournament defeat.
A second-half fightback in Cork against last season’s Grand Slam champions, who were enjoying their record-breaking seventh win in a row, saved the blushes of the Welsh side, but they were once again very much second best a week after losing to Italy in Colwyn Bay, as they were beaten 36-22.
They did manage to trim 10 points off their 24-point interval deficit after the break, but still conceded a fifth try even with the howling gale at their backs.
Wales won the toss and gave the Irish first use of the driving wind and were left ruing that option when the home side came up with the first of four tries in the opening half within 68 seconds of the start.
An excellent kick-off from outside-half Jack Crowley pinned Wales back deep in their 22 and from the defensive line-out Dragons scrum half Dafydd Buckland had his clearing kick charged down by flanker Mark Hernan. The ball bounced kindly back into his arms and his try was improved by Crowley’s deadly boot.
Ireland got their second try from centre Dan Kelly after Wales gave up possession following a line out near their own line. Once again Crowley hit the mark to make it 14-0 and the outside-half was on target again when some great broken field running by wing Andrew Smith paved the way for a third try.
Smith’s trickery cut the Welsh defensive line and scrum-half Lewis Finlay ended up crossing at the posts. Crowley added a penalty on the half-hour mark and everything the Irish touched seemed to turn to gold.
Wales head coach Gareth Williams admitted that his side were guilty of naivety when they were on the back foot and basic errors littered their performance a week after their opening round defeat to Italy.
Wales were forced to defend for their lives against last season’s Grand Slam champions. It took Wales until the last few minutes of the half before they finally got on the scoreboard.
Knott picked up a loose ball and kicked downfield. Sam Costelow took up the chase and got to the ball first on the home line, but he fell after tapping the ball over the line and Knott dived to score.
Costelow judged his conversion superbly and there seemed to be a glimmer of hope. Then came a driving line-out try from the home pack, and that man Hernan again, that drove a massive nail into the Welsh coffin and also picked up their bonus-point.
Crowley’s fourth conversion made it 31-7 at the break and Jac Morgan’s men had a mountain to climb. To their credit, they looked a different team in the second half and a Costelow penalty and a penalty try from a mighty driving line-out gave them something to build on.
Ireland lost replacement lock Joe McCarthy for 10 minutes after the penalty try, but Wales couldn’t add to their score while they had the one man advantage. In fact, the Irish pounced for a fifth try when the impressive Smith was able to touch down in the left corner after a long cut-out pass from skipper Dave McCann from the base of a ruck on the Welsh line.
Wales kept on pressing and Knott got a second try as he took a long pass from co-centre Aneurin Owen before racing the length of the 22 and sidestepping over. Ioan Lloyd’s conversion attempt hit the upright.