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NZ start with tough win at U20 world champs

New Zealand has started their World Rugby Under 20 Championship with a victory over Wales in Cape Town.
The Baby Blacks were a little fortunate in their opening win at the U20 Rugby World Cup with victory over Wales. PHOTO: NZ RUGBY

New Zealand has started their World Rugby Under-20 Championship with a sometimes good, sometimes chaotic 41-34 victory over Wales in Cape Town.

The Kiwis had a commanding 41-20 lead with 12 minutes remaining before Wales launched a rally and scored converted tries to replacements Steffan Emanuel and Macs Page, making the deficit seven with a minute left. 


New Zealand then kicked deep before winning a lineout and running down the time to win.

Lineout and counterattack were essential ingredients in New Zealand’s success along with poaching several Welsh throws.

The Baby Blacks opened the scoring after eight minutes when halfback Dylan Pledger intercepted from halfway when they were overlapped.

A failure to secure the restart cost New Zealand points. Wales built momentum and fullback Huw Anderson catapulted through three tacklers.

A penalty try with centre Aki Tuivailala and winger Frank Vaenuku joining a maul would have been satisfactory for the coaching staff. 


Second-five and vice-captain Xavi Taele was possibly New Zealand’s best. Taele carried a dozen times, made the most tackles by a back with nine, and scored two tries. The first was a javelin-like run to the line to make it 24-8. 

Four minutes after the interval a penalty try was awarded to New Zealand’s before Tai Cribb scored from a lineout.

Wales rallied with second five Louie Hennessey to the fore. The Bath product with peroxide hair scored two tries; his first with a brutal 25m bust to make it 36-20.

Xavier Tito-Harris missed selection for the All Blacks Sevens Olympic squad. He showed his future remains prosperous by scoring a try where he and replacement hooker A-One Lolofie combined 50m down an A-One highway. 

New Zealand made (128-115) and missed (29-22) more tackles than the Welsh. No.8 Johnny Lee topped the individual tackle count with 20. Locks Liam Jack (12) and Tom Allen (10) were busy and openside Matt Lowe had nine tackles and a few key turnovers.

The next match for the Baby Blacks is against defending champions France who beat Spain 49-12 on Friday.

New Zealand 41 (Dylan Pledger, penalty try, Xavi Taele 2, Tai Cribb, Xavier Tito-Harris tries; Rico Simpson 3 cons, pen) Wales 34 (Huw Anderson, Louie Hennessey 2, Steffan Emanuel, Macs Page tries; Harri Wilde con pen, Harri Ward 2 con). HT: 24-13


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