U20s World Champs: Junior Wallabies fall short in opener
Photo: Bernard Rivière / World Rugby
The challenge facing the Junior Wallabies at the 2018 Under 20’s World Championships in France, just got a whole lot harder after they went down 26-21 to Wales in their opening match this morning.
Drawn in a group containing tournament favourites and reigning champions New Zealand, the young Australians really needed to put a win on the board first up before taking on the Baby Blacks in a week’s time. But they will be left ruing a performance that never reached the heights they needed to overcome a well-drilled Welsh outfit.
A tight opening quarter was marked by a penalty from both sides, Aussie captain Ryan Lonergan getting his side underway, before Welsh kicker Cai Evans returned serve with his own three-pointer.
A 50-metre effort from Evans edged the Welsh in front as the game entered the second period. But Australia’s set-piece proficiency soon had them in pole position to strike back, and a well-placed kick from flyhalf Bayley Kuenzle gave winger James Ramm the chance to soar above his opponent, and tap the ball back inside for Mack Hansen to go over for the first five-pointer.
Wales then crossed themselves on the half hour, a tidy kick in-behind an advancing Wallaby line putting Ioan Nicholas away. And despite a Lonergan penalty reducing the arrears with half-time in sight, the Welsh found another way through the defence for Joe Goodchild to find the line, and Evans’ conversion gave them a handy 20-11 lead at oranges.
Penalties from both sides in the opening 10 minutes of the second stanza made it 23-14. But the boot of Evans was beginning to be the difference, another three points added just before the hour opening up a 12pt lead with time running out.
What will be frustrating to the Aussies was the amount of possession they wasted in the second half, as time and again they worked an opportunity only to cruel it with the final play, or a handling error.
They did get the final say, Tate McDermott crossing in the 77th minute to ensure a nail-biting finish. But Wales had done enough to secure a winning start, holding on to win 26-21 to leave the Junior Wallabies with the task of defeating Japan handsomely in game two, before knocking off their trans-Tasman rivals in their closing pool match if they are to be a chance of a place in the final four.
“We lost the game,” a disappointed skipper Ryan Lonergan said afterwards. “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,” he continued. “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.”
Australia will next play Japan, who were crushed 67-0 by New Zealand, this Sunday 3rd June at 10pm AEST.
WALES U20s 26 (Ioan Nicholas, Joe Goodchild tries; Cai Evans 2 cons, 4 pens) defeated AUSTRALIA U20s 21 (Mack Hansen, Tate McDermott tries; Ryan Lonergan 3 pens, Isaac Lucas con)
WALES 26 AUSTRALIA 21
NEW ZEALAND 67 JAPAN 0
ENGLAND 39 ARGENTINA 18
ITALY 27 SCOTLAND 26
FRANCE 26 IRELAND 24
SOUTH AFRICA 33 GEORGIA 27