SA Schools coach Lance Sendin was pleased with the foundation his team laid in the opening round of the U19 International Series following their 23-17 victory against Wales at the City Park Stadium in Crawford, Cape Town on Friday.
The SA Schools team got their campaign off to a winning start compliments of a well-balanced performance by the forwards and backs. With a 23-3 lead late in the match, however, a lapse in concentration on defence allowed Wales to touch down twice.
The SA Schools A team, meanwhile, went down 23-20 against Italy after the visitors slotted over a late penalty goal, while France survived a strong second-half fightback by England to secure a 23-18 victory.
“I am pleased with the result, especially given the fact that we had so little time to prepare for this match,” said Sendin. “We had more chances to score tries, but one of the biggest positives was our defence at the end. That said, it is always good to get off to a good start and build some momentum.”
The opening exchanges between the SA Schools team and Wales was tight as both teams tried to make their presence felt, but were shut out by the defence. SA Schools fullback Gianni Lombard opened up the scoring with two penalty goals in the first 28 minutes to push the team 6-0 ahead.
The home team, however, was dealt a big blow in the 30th minute as flank Charl Serdyn received a yellow card, but this did not stop them as hooker PJ Botha touched down thanks to a rolling maul to push them 13-0 ahead, which they held onto until halftime.
Wales earned their first points of the match early in the second half compliments of a penalty, but this was cancelled out by a fantastic try in the corner by SA Schools winger Wandisile Simelane. Centre Rikus Pretorius added the team’s third try minutes later as the backs managed to sneak through the gaps in the Wales’ defence at will, which stretched their lead to 23-3.
Wales, however, showed their fighting spirit in the closing stages of the match as they broke through the defence to score two tries to reduce the gap on the scoreboard to 23-17 with minutes to play. But the SA Schools team managed to hold on for the victory.
The SA Schools A team, meanwhile, were forced onto the back-foot in the first half as Italy strung together phases and forced their way over the advantage line, but they stepped up their game in the second half, which resulted in a tight finish.
Italy opened up the scoring in the 10th minute with a try out wide by wing Giovanni D’Onofrio following several phases on attack, which they backed up with a penalty goal and a second try by D’Onofrio from a handling error by the hosts. This earned them a 17-0 lead.
The SA Schools A team hit back with a try by wing Cameron Hufke, who received the ball in space from flyhalf Lubabalo Dobela, to open up their account.
Italy were reduced to 14 men shortly before the break as prop Danilo Fischetti was sent to the sin bin for tackling a player without his arms, and Dobela opted for a penalty goal to inflate their score to 17-8 going into the break.
Italy picked up where they left off when play resumed and slotted over their second penalty goal early on. But the home team fought back strongly with scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba scoring a well-worked try, which fullback Abner Van Reenen backed up with another as he dashed around the defence, which left the teams tied on 20-20.
A penalty goal by Italian flyhalf Antonio Rizzi in the dying minutes, however, handed Italy a narrow 23-20 victory.
The second round of matches will be hosted at Bishops in Rondebosch on Tuesday where Wales will go up against Italy, while the SA Schools A team will meet England and the SA Schools team will battle it out with France.
SA Schools 23 (13) Wales 17 (0)
SA Schools: Tries: PJ Botha, Rikus Pretorius, Wandisile Simelane. Conversion: Gianni Lombard. Penalty Goals: Gianni Lombard (2).
Wales: Tries: Jordan Liney, Will Talbot-Davies. Conversions: Ben Jones (2). Penalty Goal: Philip Jones.
SA Schools A 20 (8) Italy 23 (17)
SA Schools A: Tries: Abner Van Reenen, Cameron Hufke, Sanele Nohamba. Conversion: Abner Van Reenen. Penalty Goal: Lubabalo Dobela.