WALES Under-20s’ hopes of making the Junior World Championship semi-finals are hanging by a thread after they were beaten 35-21 by Ireland.
Byron Hayward’s young guns had been hoping to make the last four for the third year on the spin.
But now they will need to beat Six Nations champions France with a bonus point on Tuesday and hope the Irish fail to rack up the points against Fiji if they are to sneak top spot in Group B.
Ireland, coached by Blaina’s Mike Ruddock, were good value for the win after bossing the second half and will now hope for a Welsh victory against Les Bleus.
Wales were dominant at the scrum but were troubled by the Irish attack and will need to up their game considerably if they are to end the group stages on a high against the Grand Slam winners.
Wales nilled Ireland in Athlone in February but had shipped 14 points before 13 minutes were on the clock in Pukekohe.
They scored two converted tries after Ospreys full-back Ashley Evans made a Horlicks of fielding a pair of hoofs downfield.
First a mix-up with Scarlets wing Joshua Adams enabled Munster tighthead Ross Burke to power over and then a knock-on under no pressure gifted prime attacking position that eventually led to Leinster centre Garry Ringrose crossing.
At 14-0 Wales needed to strike next and did just that when Dragons wing Tyler Morgan, so impressive in the 37-5 success against the Fijians, showed pace and power to go over by the sticks after cutting a lovely line off scrum-half Luc Jones.
Ireland Leinster fly-half Ross Byrne knocked over a penalty to make it 17-7 after 25 minutes but Hayward’s young guns patiently piled the pressure on approaching the break thanks to their impressive scrum.
A succession of penalties on the Irish line led to a yellow card for Irish loosehead Peter Dooley and a penalty try; fine reward for Dragons hooker Elliot Dee and Ospreys propping pair Nicky Smith and Nicky Thomas.
Angus O’Brien’s second conversion meant it was 17-14 at the break and up for grabs, something that would have delighted Hayward and his coaches after such a shocking start.
Wales had a golden chance to take the lead for the first time when Irish wing Alex Wootton was yellow-carded in the opening minute of the second half for dropping his knees into O’Brien as lay on the floor after fielding a kick.
And it was the scrum that led to them inching in front with the pack rewarding captain Steffan Hughes’ decision to turn down three points by shunting forward for Dragons number eight James Benjamin to dot down.
O’Brien’s conversion made it 21-17 but Ireland, back to 14 men, went 24-21 in front when Ringrose stretched over for his second after 52 minutes.
Suddenly it was all Ireland at they enjoyed a six-point lead entering the final quarter thanks to an excellent touchline penalty by Byrne.
Wales were up against it when Dragons inside centre Jack Dixon was sin-binned for a tip tackle with 13 minutes remaining and Byrne took away their losing bonus point with eight minutes remaining.
And the Irish had their own bonus point in the closing stages when Leinster full-back Cian Kelleher raced over down the right.
Wales scorers: tries – T Morgan, penalty (2); conversions – A O’Brien (3)
Ireland scorers: tries – R Burke, G Ringrose (2), C Kelleher; conversions – R Byrne (3); penalties – R Byrne (3)
- France ran in six tries as they beat Fiji 37-5 in the early game.
- France 9 points
- Ireland 6 points
- Wales 5 points
- Fiji 0 points