Wales U20 secured an excellent first win of this year’s U20 Six Nations as France U20 were beaten in tough weather at Parc Eirias in Colwyn Bay.
Gareth Williams had opted for a number of changes before the game, with James Fender and Bradley Roderick coming in as injury replacements at lock and centre, while Dom Booth was preferred at hooker, Ellis Bevan got the nod at scrum-half, and Mason Grady, Frankie Jones and Jacob Beetham formed a new back three.
The weather conditions were once again horrendous for a Wales U20 game and they played a part early on as both teams tested each other out in the air, before France earned the upper hand at the breakdown and earned a shot at the posts, but Thibault Debaes could not get the three points.
In the end it was the hosts, playing into the conditions in the first half, who opened the scoring when a handling error was pounced on by Ioan Rhys Davies, before a few phases later Sam Costelow made a scintillating line break and found Ellis Bevan on his inside shoulder to go under the posts, with Costelow converting.
Wales stayed on top for the next 10 minutes, getting into the French 22 on two occasions but errors at the lineout prevented the hosts from adding to the league, and in the end the away side were next on the board when Debaes was successful off the tee after Bradley Roderick was caught offside.
The French fly-half was back on the tee a few minutes later when James Fender made contact with a lineout jumper in the air, with the lead cut to one point, and the penalties continued to go against Wales as the away side turned the screw.
Wales managed to hold the away side out for the rest of regular time in the first half, with an excellent turnover from Morgan Strong and a strong tackle from Mason Grady forcing Nathaneal Hulleu into touch.
Unfortunately a breakdown in function of the lineout meant that the home side continued to invite pressure on to themselves and eventually France got themselves camped in our 22 as the clock turned red.
It looked the away side had got themselves the try on the stroke of half-time when they pushed over from close range but a knock on in the build up called the play back for a penalty advantage and play would go on a good 10 minutes after 40 minutes was up.
A dominant France scrum threatened to get them over the line a few times but was not successful, and even when Dom Booth saw yellow for offside the away team could not get the all-important try, with Tani Vili held up over the line for a huge Wales psychological boost.
Unfortunately the same issues remained for the home side early in the second half as a lost lineout gave France the ball and then with a man down the back field was empty for Les Bleus to kick into. Sam Costelow covered but was tackled behind his own try line and a scrum conceded.
Wales held the away side at bay at the scrum but eventually Sacha Lotrian powered over from close range to nudge his team ahead, although Debaes couldn’t covert as Booth returned to the field.
Back up to 15 men and the Welsh side went pushing for a try, forming a strong driving maul which was just brought down short, but a return to the France 22 came up trumps as a second maul was pushed over the try line powerfully. Morgan Strong in possession and Sam Costelow converting superbly for a 14-11 lead.
With the advantage on the scoreboard and the wind at their backs Wales dominated possession and territory as the game headed into the final 10 minutes, as France got themselves on the wrong side of the referee and put a number of kicks into touch on the full.
They did get their hands on the ball as the clocked ticked towards the 80 minute mark but a committed Wales defence, remarkable considering no substitutions had been made, get them at bay and the hosts secured their first win of this season’s U20 Six Nations.
A terrific effort from the entire side, the majority of whom completed a full 90 minutes of action in horrendous weather, to beat the two-time World Rugby U20 Championships winners, although they stayed bottom of the table due to results elsewhere.
Next up is a trip to Gloucester to take on England U20 with the momentum gained from Friday night’s win hopefully taking Wales forward into a big performance over the Severn.