Wales U20 44-28 Fiji U20

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Wales U20 rounded off the World Rugby U20 Championship pool stage with a win, albeit a laboured one, over Fiji U20 to qualify for the 5th-8th place play-off bracket.

Unfortunately, with some unexpected results elsewhere seeing Argentina comfortably beat France and England hammer 14-man Australia, it means the young Welshmen will now meet New Zealand U20 in the first game to decide 5th-8th place.

Head coach Gareth Williams had continued to tinker with his starting XV, rather than make wholesale changes, as Tom Devine and Nick English came in at prop, Morgan Jones returned to the second row, Sam Costelow in at 12 and Deon Smith named on the wing.

Fiji, on the other hand, had made 11 changes to the team that lost to Argentina last time out, and it seemed that would come back to bite them when, having already had one possible score ruled out by the TMO, the Welsh pack rumbled over in the corner with Tommy Reffell in possession.

However, the Pacific Islanders had come to play and hit back instantly with a terrific try started by fly-half Kuruvoli who chipped through for Momo to gather and feed Ramasibana on his shoulder to go under the posts.

This began a frantic first half that saw Wales return to the opposition 22 quickly and after building pressure at the scrum allowed scrum-half Dafydd Buckland to tap and go over, before Fiji captain Soqonwasaloa easily broke a midfield tackle to go under the posts from 50 metres out.

Dafydd Buckland dives over for his try

Events briefly settled down as Wales dominated possession and territory but a mixture of handling errors and a lack of a tight carrying game stunted progress, before the referee became centre of attention just before the break.

A loose ball was hacked forward by Fiji, but covered well by full-back Ioan Davies, sliding across to recover possession. As he tried to return to his feet, number eight Sailo flew into a tackle, failing to wrap his arms and making direct contact to the head of the Welshman with his shoulder.

The referee explained this is what he had seen, and stated his decision was a red card, however a mixture of the assistant referee and the TMO talked him out of sending the player off, with a yellow card shown instead.

Wales managed to add three points off the tee thanks to Cai Evans, and a try came soon after when Fiji failed to deal with a long kick and the ball was worked well across the field for Tomi Lewis to finish brilliantly in the corner, but there was a sense of injustice as Sailo returned to the action early in the second half.

At this point the scoreboard showed 22-14, but Fiji were intent on staying in the game and scored first after the break when an incisive attack on first phase ball but Rasaku over in the corner.

The task for Wales to maintain the lead was also made more difficult with Dafydd Buckland going off, and with the other scrum-half in the squad Harri Morgan unavailable through illness, Sam Costelow had to step in as a makeshift nine.

Sam Costelow stepped in at scrum-half

As the game entered it’s final quarter the back-and-forth nature of proceedings continued with the Welsh forwards pushing over from close range, Dewi Lake the beneficiary this time, before some more lacklustre defending allowed Rasaku over for a second try.

Two more Wales tries were chalked off by the TMO, but with 10 minutes to go the game was secured when Fiji failed to deal with another long Evans kick and after being camped on their line, Ben Warren dived over.

Then we quickly returned to the 22, when a Cai Evans cross kick found Deon Smith who stepped inside and offloaded for Ioan Davies to score. A late Evans kick secured a 44-28 win, but there was more work-ons than positives for Wales as the final whistle blew.

A weekend of fixing those defensive lapses and working on a more coherent attacking game plan through the phases awaits, as well as patching up injuries and players who have played the majority of minutes during the pool stage, with New Zealand U20 the opponents on Monday.

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