In what was to be a winner takes all match at Parc Eirias on Friday evening, the rain chose the worst possible time to start teeming down.
Both Wales and England’s packs had looked good throughout the tournament, and it was the home side that started the stronger. The first ten minutes was all Wales, as they pressed deep into English territory, yet a great break down the wing was scuppered by a foot in touch, as Jordan Williams was close to crossing over the try line. Wales instead had to settle for just the three points from the boot of fly half Sam Davies.
England, with their pack almost scarily big for this age grade, started to impose themselves on the game. It didn’t take long before they crashed over from short range, although English fly half Henry Slade missed with the conversion.
Wales hit back almost straight away with a penalty of their own to take back the lead.
The remainder of the second half saw Wales scramble manfully in defence. Too many missed first up tackles, especially in the mid field, saw England make ground easily but Wales’ last ditch defence was good enough to reduce their chance to a penalty kick which was missed again by Slade.
Shortly before half time, England had a line out close to the Welsh try line, from the ensuing maul, the referee adjudged Wales to have collapsed it illegally, and despite the maul remaining upright and mobile, Ieuan Jones for Wales was sent to the sin bin.
From the resulting lineout and driving maul, England crashed over to score with fly half Slade finding his range with the boot and converting.
As the second half got underway, Wales looked like they would be able to edge their way back into the game, as fly half Sam Davies reduced the deficit to 6 points. It wasn’t to be however as the England pack again dominated possession and Wales were continuously pinned back in their own half. Poor Welsh tactical kicking didn’t help matters as they heaped pressure on themselves.
It wasn’t until England extended their lead once more through a beautifully kicked drop goal that Wales looked to run the ball. Full back Jordan Williams made an immediate impression as he found gaps with ease. England’s defence was aggressive and dominant and all Wales could take from it was yet another three points.
Going into the last ten minutes, England again managed to control possession and keep Wales pinned back in their own 22. With another lineout and another driving maul, the English pack cemented their excellent performance with another hard earned try.
Wales continued to do their utmost to fight back, but as the clock ran red, centre Cory Allen after a good break down the wing, could only chip ahead as England shepherded the ball into touch to see out the game as deserved winners and in doing so securing the championship.
The disappointment of missing out on a Grand Slam was clear to see on the faces of the young Welsh players, yet they will take huge amounts of positives from this year’s campaign as well as a harsher lesson learned against England of game management and occasional poor first line defence.
There is undoubtedly a huge amount of talent in this U20’s squad with numerous players showing every chance of having the quality to make the step up in the coming years to Wales’ senior side. Cory Allen, Jack Dixon, Sion Bennett, Sam Davies and Rhodri Williams are just a few of the players who over this year’s 6 Nations put in excellent displays that should see them get the game time for their regions as they develop and push on to higher honours.
Result: Wales U20’s 15 – 28 England U20’s
Wales U20: Jordan Williams (Scarlets/Llanelli); Harry Robinson (Blues), Cory Allen (Blues/Cardiff), Jack Dixon (Dragons), Ashley Evans (Ospreys/Bridgend); Sam Davies (Ospreys/Swansea), Rhodri Williams (Scarlets/Llandovery); Nicky Thomas (Ospreys/Swansea), Elliot Dee (Bedwas), Nicky Smith (Ospreys/Swansea), Carwyn Jones (Scarlets/Carmarthen), Rhodri Hughes (Ospreys/Swansea), Ellis Jenkins (capt, Blues/Cardiff), Daniel Thomas (Scarlets/Llanelli), Ieuan Jones (Dragons).
Replacements: Ethan Lewis (Blues/Cardiff), Gareth Thomas (Scarlets /Carmarthen), Dan Suter (Ospreys/Bridgend), Jack Jones (Ospreys/Rovigo), Sion Bennett (Scarlets/Carmarthen) Joshua Davies (Dragons/Bedwas), Hallam Amos (Dragons), Steffan Hughes (Scarlets/Llanelli).
England U20: Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby); Anthony Watson (London Irish), Tom Stephenson (Northampton Saints), Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs); Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Callum Braley (Bristol Rugby); Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), Nathan Morris (London Wasps), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Elliott Stooke (Gloucester Rugby), Dominic Barrow (Leeds Carnegie), Harry Wells (Leicester Tigers), David Sisi (London Irish), Jack Clifford (Harlequins).
Replacements: . Max Crumpton (Saracens), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Northampton Saints), Danny Herriott (Northampton Saints), Tom Jubb (Saracens), Gus Jones (London Wasps), Alex Day (Northampton Saints), Henry Purdy (Leicester Tigers), Ben Howard (Worcester Warriors).