By: Paul Hopkins
Swansea played their first match of competitive rugby in 47 days as they gained match fitness in a spirited defeat to a Wales Under 20s side.
The home side settled quickly with fly half James Davies finding touch inside the Wales 22 in the opening minutes from a penalty. Following a routine lineout, James Davies spotted Willis Wood in space, but the winger was unable to collect his crossfield kick.
Play was brought back for another Swansea penalty and scrum half Connor Tantum was brought down a metre short of the line, but he conceded a penalty when support failed to arrive quickly enough.
A mistake by Wood was capitalised on by the Wales chasers and he was forced to knock the ball forward. But a powerful scrum by the Whites’ front eight earned a penalty and James Davies was able to gain important territory with a long kick.
Wales U20 struggled at the set piece in the early stages and a misfiring lineout was grateful collected by prop Tom Sloane but Tantum’s chip ahead was well fielded by the visitors.
Offside in the Wales defence saw James Davies dink the ball into touch just short of the try line, but obstruction in the resulting maul gifted the visitors a turnover.
Wales’ first notable attack came from a huge penalty touch finder and a patient build up by the pack resulted in a try in the corner. Eddie James converted.
The try seemed to spark life into the under 20s side as they again broke through a tackle and engineered a penalty in the 22. Following a chip to the corner, the Whites’ pack defended well and kept the ball up in the tackle to secure a turnover.
A poor lineout by hooker Garan Williams saw the under 20s steal possession, but a mistake spared the home side from conceding a second try.
Swansea looked to hit back when James Davies tried a clever chip ahead, but his fellow backs were penalised for offside. Wales chipped to the corner, but an outstanding Swansea defence forced a relieving penalty.
Number eight Jon Fox and Wood combined superbly on the wing, but the Welsh defence managed to get back to prevent a score, although they were penalised for offside, so James Davies found touch in the corner. The Whites’ pack tried to drive towards the line from the lineout, but a clever Wales defence held the ball up.
Om the stroke of half time Wales found touch deep inside the Swansea 22 with a penalty and a routine lineout saw Alex Manning crash over for a try. Eddie James converted.
Half-time:- Swansea 0-14 Wales U20
The second half began in much the same vein as the first with the home side handed an attacking platform following a high tackle. James Davies kicked to the corner, but replacement hooker Aneurin James’ throw was crooked.
Swansea were soon back on the attack when centre Gareth Rees made a half break and the Wales defence was penalised for offside in midfield. A quick tap penalty saw Rees again stretch his legs out wide, but the Wales defence stood firm. A further offside offence saw full back Liam Popham kick to the corner.
The home side tried to spread the ball through their backs but the final pass out wide to Wood was well telegraphed by the visitors’ defence. A flip pass between locks Jay Williams and Matt Dodd reinvigorated the attack and play was brought back for a Whites penalty.
Finally, the immense pressure by the All Whites paid off when James Davies danced through a tackle, allowing flanker Charlie Davies to pick up and score. Popham converted.
A long touch finder by Wales presented a first attacking opportunity of the second half. The home side gave away a penalty following the lineout with the visitors opting for a scrum under the posts. Replacement scrum half Chris Morgans superbly disrupted the ball at the base of the scrum, forcing an error.
Swansea looked to counterattack from their own 22 and got the ball out to the pacey Wood, but an excellent tap tackle saw him bundled into touch.
Dodd drove into the 22 and the Whites got quick ball out wide and a superb interchange between backs and forwards saw replacement lock James Williams make important yards, before Gareth Rees became isolated and an outstanding Wales defence secured a turnover.
Wales extended their lead in the final 10 minutes with a clever move from a set piece that exploited an overlap for a try in the corner that was also converted.
The All Whites claimed the best try of the match with four minutes left on the clock when Popham and Gareth Rees combined with the latter kicking the ball ahead of the volley for replacement Taylor Phillips to beat the defender to touch down under the posts. Popham converted.
Wales had the final say though as they responded 60 seconds later when a missed tackle saw their lively scrum half wrong foot a defender to score. The try was also converted.
Full-time:- Swansea 14-28 Wales U20
Tries:- Charlie Davies (50), Taylor Phillips (76)
Cons:- Liam Popham (51, 77)
Tries:- (21, 40, 72, 78)
Cons:- (22, 40+1, 73, 79)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Weather:- Clear, 5C
15 Liam Popham
14 Matt Billett
13 Gareth Rees
12 Kieran Charles
11 Willis Wood
10 James Davies
9 Connor Tantum
1 Tom Sloane
2 Garan Williams
3 Kaid O’Neill
4 Matt Dodd
5 Jay Williams
6 Charlie Davies
7 Callum Bowden
8 Jon Fox
16 Anuerin James
17 Tom Northy
18 Jordan Pritchard
19 James Williams
20 Jake Baker
21 Leon McNally
22 Josh Dixon
23 Chris Morgans
24 Ben Ley
25 Taylor Phillips