Wales U20 got off on the wrong foot in the U20 Six Nations as they went down to Italy U20 on Friday night in Colwyn Bay.
Head coach Gareth Williams had mixed new faces with experience in his starting XV, bringing back seven second year players who were capped last season, but also introducing eight debutants, with seven more on the bench.
Italy were a more seasoned side at this level and it showed in the first few minutes with a neat line break and being able to dominate possession and territory after the home side’s lineout went astray early on.
However, it was Wales who struck first as a pre-called play saw inside centre Aneurin Owen take the ball at first receiver and find fly-half Sam Costelow on his inside shoulder to sprint under the posts and convert his own score.
That would be as good as it got for Wales during the entire game though, as Italy went on to control proceedings in a windy Colwyn Bay, and should have probably won by a bigger margin than they did.
Immediately after conceding the opening try the Azzurri were dominating possession and territory again, looking dangerous each time they pushed forward as some key missed tackles and poor spot blitzes from the home side were punished.
To their credit Wales managed to cling on and valiantly defended the line but in the end loosehead prop Matteo Drudi was able to push over from close range.
Paolo Garbisi was unable to covert but did put Italy into the lead a few minutes later when the home side were penalised for being offside. However, that is how the scores would remain until half-time when the visitors could not add to the score despite their dominance.
The break should have allowed Wales to regroup but unfortunately an unforced error and then a line break conceded allowed the away side to return straight to our 22, kicking two quick-fire penalties to extend their lead.
Italy were particularly in control at scrum time and seemed to have the favour of the referee at the breakdown, and although Costelow’s kicking out of hand was good, the hosts were lacking intensity and physicality in attack.
Openside Manuel Zulliani should have scored but lost possession as he went over the line, while Garbisi and Mattia Ferrarin missed a penalty each, but the former did add three more points on the board for the final score of the game.
Wales were unable to save anything late in the game and fell to a 10-point defeat, a tough loss ahead of a visit to Musgrave Park in Cork and an encounter with Ireland U20 next week.