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New Zealand U20s edge Wales after 14-point first half deficit

By Ben Smith
(Source/World Rugby)

New Zealand U20s have survived their first pool clash in the World Rugby U20 Championships in Stellenbosch with a 27-26 win over Wales U20.

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New Zealand opened the scoring in the 6th minute when first five Taha Kemara found his right wing Caleb Tangitau unmarked from an attacking scrum play inside the 10.

The All Blacks Sevens rep went over untouched for a 5-0 lead but it was Wales who took control with three tries and 19 unanswered points.

Wales enjoyed sustained attacking possession, eventually cracking New Zealand’s line with a driving maul in the 21st minute through hooker Lewis Lloyd.

Flyhalf Dan Edwards was next to score again after a rolling maul again marched New Zealand back to their own line. After a few phases of pick and goes, a release and well-executed block play put Edwards in space to score next to the posts.

With the lead Wales were well and truly on top, making generous gain line only to be repelled at the line by last-ditch New Zealand defence.

The weight of possession eventually cracked as the Welsh struck again from another set-piece strike. Fullback Cameron Winnett was stopped inches short before No 8 Morgan Morse drove over on the next phase.

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Down by 19-5 at halftime, New Zealand U20 coach Clarke Laidlaw wasn’t panicked knowing that they would be aided by a strong wind in the second half.

“Everyone was pretty relaxed, we started the game well but we then gave away a lot of possession and territory,” Laidlaw said.

“We knew if we could get a bit of field position playing down the hill and with the wind at our backs that we could build pressure. We just needed to understand how to build pressure and keep hold of the ball.”

“The wind doesn’t win you the game, but it does give you the chance to build pressure. The game-drivers, our nine, 10 and 15, kicked well in the second half and built some pressure. There were some good lessons there of how to play in different conditions.”

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A Noah Hotham box kick was the catalyst for a comeback after a strong tackle and counter-ruck from Caleb Tangitau and Sam Hainsworth-Fa’aofo won a penalty.

Crusaders winger Macca Springer strolled over after multiple phases of lead up, with club Taha Kemara once again picking the right option with a timely cutout pass.

New Zealand closed the gap to two points when openside Hainsworth-Fa’aofo crossed from a quick lineout maul with no jump.

The Baby Blacks took the lead through a Harry Godfrey penalty goal in the 55th minute before Che Clark scored to take a 27-19 lead.

Wales struck late with a consolation try, again from the maul, to close the gap to just one point but did ran out of time to challenge for the win.

Laidlaw was impressed with Kemara’s kicking in the second-half which controlled proceedings for New Zealand, but was wary of Northern Hemisphere opposition after such a drought between games.

“There are lots of areas but we have not played on the world stage for a while. Getting to play Six Nations teams is why we are here and it’s what excites us,” he said.

“We know how good France are. We’ve had a really good look at them and that will be a huge challenge come Thursday.”

New Zealand will play Six Nations runners-up France next while Wales play Japan.

 

 

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