Griffiths stars in Wales U20 win at Parc Eirias

Griffiths stars in Wales U20 win at Parc Eirias

By Gary Williams
13th March 2015
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Rory Thornton's Wales Under 20 side returned to Parc Eirias and returned to winning ways in the Six Nations Championship

Rory Thornton's Wales Under 20 side returned to Parc Eirias and returned to winning ways in the Six Nations Championship after successive defeats to Scotland and France as they beat Ireland 19-12.

A power-packed performance from the Welsh forwards set up a win that made it two out of two at home for Thornton's side following their opening day victory over Junior World Champions, England.

The scrum was superb, the back row dynamic and the boot of young outside half Jarrod Evans good enough to land five out of six kicks at goal to bag 14 points. Wales dominated possession and territory in the first half, and made twice as many metres as their visitors, but had to wait until the final few minutes of the half to turn their superiority into success on the scoreboard.

Up until that point it had been a battle of the respective boots of the two outside halves, with Evans and Ross Byrne kicking two apiece. Then, with two minutes left in the half, the Welsh scrum flexed its muscles again to push the Irish eight back and earn a penalty that Evans kicked to regain the lead.

Then the inspirational Thornton stole the ball on the floor on their 22 to turn over the ball and set-up a Welsh wonder try. No 8 Jon Fox took the ball on, popped it to full back Joe Gage who let the ball go out the back door to Josh Adams.

The right wing ran hard to the Irish 22 and then passed inside to young centre Owen Watkin, who raced to the line for a spectacular try. Evans added the touchline conversion to make it 10 points in the space of two minutes to send Wales into the break with a 16-6 lead.

The second half saw Evans kick his fourth penalty after another superb Welsh scrum, but then he lost his 100 per cent record with his only miss of the night. That allowed Byrne to eat away at the Welsh lead when he got the chance and two more penalties from his boot brought the Irish back to within one score with 20 minutes to go.

The Irish loose head prop Jeremy Loughman was then sent to the sin-bin, but Wales failed to take advantage of their numerical advantage and were unable to add to their tally. That meant an increasingly nervous final few minutes, with man of the match Ollie Griffiths pulling off a try-saving tackle to stop Ireland getting level.

Griffiths had another outstanding game and was happy to have ended a run of two defeats. All he had in mind after the final whistle was the next game against Italy.

"We knew they had a good pack, but our scrum was fantastic and we dominated the set pieces. We gave them a foothold in the game in the end and it was a relief to hold out," said Griffiths.

"It was a tough old game, tough on the legs. Now we want a win in Italy - it would be great to give us two on the bounce to kick on into the World Championship."

Griffiths' performance had Wales' most capped back row forward, Martyn Williams, purring with delight and comparing him to current Wales openside and captain, Sam Warburton.

"It was a fantastic performance - I'm struggling to find words to describe how good he was. I'm not sure how long the Dragons have signed him up for, but I'd give him a five year contract now," said Williams.

Wales Under 20 attack coach Jason Strange was also full of praise for his star back row man, as well as being "really pleased with the result".

"I thought we deserved the result and played some good stuff in the first half. We didn't apply as much pressure in the second half and didn't have as much discipline," said Strange.

"Ollie has been playing superbly for the four games, but he went up another level tonight and he is something special. He can do anything he wants - he's that good a player."

Wales U20 scorers: Try: O Watkin; Con: J Evans; Pens: J Evans 4
Ireland U20 scorers: Pens: R Byrne 4.

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