Wales stun New Zealand in Stellenbosch

Jun 8 • General News, International, Junior Rugby, National, Six Nations, Six Nations News, World Rugby Junior Championship • 3268 Views • Comments Off on Wales stun New Zealand in Stellenbosch

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The battle between New Zealand vs Wales closely resembled World War One trench warfare. Photo by Morgan Piek /Rugby15. Wales Under 20s have caused the biggest upset in Junior World Championship history by condemning New Zealand to a shock 9-6 defeat in shocking conditions at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch today.

The Baby Blacks have dominated the competition and were undefeated in the tournament, claiming victory in all four editions since the event replaced the U19 and U21 championships in 2008.

Only 12 months ago New Zealand hammered Wales 92-0 in Italy and after the Kiwis had mauled Samoa 63-0 in their opening pool match without breaking a sweat, the tournament heavyweights would have been expecting another scalp. However Wales had other ideas and produced a heroic defensive effort in appalling conditions to send New Zealand crashing to defeat.

The Welsh scrum dominated the feared New Zealand pack while at halfback Tom Habberfield marshalled the troops superbly. The heavy pitch didn’t suit New Zealand’s expansive style of play but Wales forced the men in black into uncharacteristic mistakes. New Zealand rang the changes in the dying stages of the match to inject pace and power but the Welsh line stood toe to toe with their much vaunted opposition to record a famous victory.

The staunch defence was tested to the limited as New Zealand upped the tempo as the match neared its climax. For 18 phases the Kiwis inched closer and closer to a potential match clinching try but for 18 phases Wales held firm to deny the marauders before relieving the pressure with a turnover. New Zealand seemed to run out of ideas as they were repeatedly knocked back in the tackle by a superb defensive effort by Wales.

New Zealand opened the scoring on a quagmire of a pitch in the 9th minute through Scott Eade. The outside half had another opportunity to increase the lead but he pushed his next shot wide. Matthew Morgan missed his first two shots at goal as Wales took the game to their illustrious opponents but it was third time lucky for the Ospreys fly half when he levelled the scores in the 22nd minute with a well taken penalty.

New Zealand then tried to make a statement with their pick up and goes causing Wales some concern but their bullying tactics didn’t impress Wales who held their own in defence. Eade pushed another penalty wide but made amends when Luke Hamilton was caught off-side just before the break to put New Zealand 6-3 ahead at the break.

Dragons-bound Tom Prydie took over the kicking duties for Wales in the second half and he showed nerves of steel to strike the ball cleanly between the posts in the 50th minute to level the scores again.

Prydie edged Wales back in front with another excellent effort and it was all hands to the pump as New Zealand went for the jugular but they found the Welsh defence impregnable.

The Welsh underdogs weren’t to be denied against the New Zealand top dogs as Wales now know if they back this performance up with a victory over Samoa, they will be in the semi-finals of Junior World Championship.

Wales Under 20 head coach Danny Wilson said, “Huge credit to the boys, they showed massive heart out there today and thoroughly deserved the win. They played the conditions well and really stuck to the game plan. We played well without the ball and gave ourselves good field position. The scrum was excellent and the front row did a wonderful job. But I thought the back row were equally effective too. In fact, the whole pack stood up to the task and did a magnificent job, from start to finish.

“The weather certainly made a big difference to us, compared with last year, but you have to play the conditions too. The game plan worked and the boys executed it well. Ioan Cunningham has done a superb job on the defence which was also superb.

“Now we have to move on from this game and look at the next one, against Samoa. It’s vital that we keep our eye on the ball and make it three wins from as many games in order to confirm a place in the last four.”

Wales captain Kirby Myhill added, “I can’t believe it at the moment. We worked so hard all week and it came off.

“The rain probably suited us more than New Zealand, but I can’t believe the guts and determination we showed. Having been poor in the Six Nations, our defence was magnificent today. We have worked a lot on that part of our game. Our pack was good in the Six Nations and we built on that. I’m speechless, but so happy that everything came into place today. We lost 92-0 last year and we wanted to prove a point today. I think we’ve done that.”

WRU head of rugby Joe Lydon, said: “The players and coaches made no promises other than to enjoy the day and to give 100 per cent. I am pleased for the boys who suffered at the hands of New Zealand last year and also the players for whom this was their first Junior World Championship.

“It proves that with the right attitude and application, anyone can be beaten. I think this is a lesson for everyone.

“They took their chances – and also missed a few. The regions and the Premiership clubs have to take credit for this too.

“Having said that, there is still a great deal of work to do and we will be reviewing this game and the whole championship in as much detail as we did last year.”

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