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New Zealand U20 hold off fast finishing Wales for opening day win

By Ben Smith
Xavi Taele of New Zealand during the match between Wales and New Zealand on 29 June 2024 during the U20 Championship held at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Thinus Maritz/World Rugby)

The New Zealand U20 have opened their World Championship campaign in South Africa with a 41-34 win over a resilient Wales side.

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The Baby Blacks led from seventh minute with halfback Dylan Pledger snatched an intercept down the left hand touchline and never let it go, but Wales kept responding to stay within touching distance and give New Zealand something to think about.

With New Zealand ahead by 10-8, a penalty try and yellow card to Wales lock Osain Thomas was the catalyst for the momentum swing the Kiwis needed.

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Impressive midfielder Xavi Taele, who was named player of the tournament in the Rugby Championship U20, burst through the middle of the Welsh defence and reached the line with an outstretched hand.

Rico Simpson’s conversion extended the lead to 24-8 but a barrage of Welsh attack on the stroke of half-time kept them in the game.

After multiple phases of tight forward play following a lineout on the five, a long cutout pass from flyhalf Harri Wilde found the mark and inside centre Louie Hennessey scored the first of his two tries with a walk-in on the right wing.

New Zealand took ascendency in the second half with Xavi Taele responding with his second try, a blistering solo effort down the right touchline with an acrobatic dive to finish.

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Blindside flanker Tai Cribb scored next from a trick lineout play which extended New Zealand’s lead to 36-13.

With the game looking out of reach, Hennessey scored from a scrum play to give Wales hope. He ran a hard line off No 8 Morgan Morse, piercing the defence and running through multiple defenders from an incredible score.

A second yellow card, to No 8 Morse proved costly, with New Zealand exploiting the one man advantage through New Zealand Sevens star Xavier Tito-Harris.

Tito-Harris sparked the try with a line break from 60 metres out. After linking with prop A-One Lolofie, the outside back recieved the return pass for the finish.

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Two late tries inside the last 10 minutes threatened New Zealand with a seven point buffer, but they were able to close out the last two minutes and secure the win.

 

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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1 Comment
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Jon 12 days ago

Both NZU20 centers look like they could have a pro career infront of them. Pledger in the halves as well. Ron Cribb jnr, Tai, looks like family through and through too. Hope he players like it too (looked like it).

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Tom 12 minutes ago
All Blacks snatch another tight victory from England at Eden Park

First up to any of the ABs fans who accused us of “bluster” pre-series for saying it would be a competitive - I'm glad it turned out to be an excellent series to which the ABs were deserving winners and I hope next time a side tours you'll be a little more humble. I loved the heart shown by the English boys and how they managed to contain the AB attack for large parts of the series. Was very disappointed by the lack of cohesion and ambition ball in hand, we looked after the ball poorly and hardly went 2 phases without kicking it away. We're not giving ourselves enough opportunity to put phases together and build pressure. The ambition shown in the 6N against Ireland and France seems to have gone and our players look very hesitant with ball in hand, our line speed is faster without the ball than with it. Loving seeing Maro back to his best and Fin Baxter really impressed, Alex Mitchell looks to be one of the most complete 9s in world rugby, great around the base and impeccable kicking. Congrats to the ABs, far more dangerous and skillful than England. We contained you for large swathes but to shut down that amount of pace and skill for 80 mins is nigh on impossible. Managed to find a way to win and instinctively grabbed the rare opportunities which came your way. Finding ways to win in two tight test matches will I'm sure be a great experience for your younger players. Beauden needs to be in the starting 15, what a worldie.

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