venue: The Gnoll, Neath
28th November 2012
Full Match Report
WALES U18 v AIS
Wales's Autumn Test series finished in a resounding defeat to a powerful Australia Institute of Sport but the youngsters earned praise from the opposition for a never-say-die attitude amid 80 minutes of constant pressure. Wales had beaten England and Scotland over the course of the last few months but, with some of the AIS side already signed by NRL teams and looking to be the megastars of the future, it was going to be a tall order for the Welsh to contain their threat.
And so it unfolded as the relentless Australians ensured their first game in the UK of their winter tour, having played in France this month, ended with success. Wales head coach Barry Eaton admitted that the AIS side was far and away ahead of his team, and probably many other international age group sides. But he thinks there are a lot of things to take from the match and the Series in itself to help Wales in the future. Eaton said: "The start of the game, from our point of view, was not great. We kept putting ourselves under pressure and they caused us a whole host of problems.
"For 20 minutes, we didn't seem to be able to handle it but we caused one or two problems ourselves but 70 per cent of possession was in Australia's favour. You have to take your hat off to them, they were very ruthless and they punished us when we let them off the hook. Any back-to-back repeat sets they had, they punished us.
"The fact that they were trying at the death to nullify our second try just shows you what they are like. They probably had a swell of possession. Our boys can be proud of their efforts but maybe they can channel those efforts a little bit better and deal with the situations a little better so you give yourself more of a chance. But in terms of Australia, they were very impressive.
"We have a lot of players in that dressing room who are either new to the game or trying to make their way in the game and the potential of those Australian guys in the dressing room is that some - or most - of them already have NRL contracts under their belts. From that point of view, the boys have competed. Physically we matched them but Australia did the little things better than us."
The difference in levels was evident as early as the first minute when AIS grabbed a lead they would never lose. Half-back Christian Hazzard raced fully 40 yards down the left hand touchline to go over and convert his own try from wide out. It set a pattern of playing rugby league the Aussie way that Wales could not match.
The AIS were 10-0 up inside five minutes when winger Shaun Hudson finished off a neat move also wide out on the left, which, as the course of the game went, turned into a lucrative area for the Junior Kangaroos.
Many Welsh fans would have been hoping for one of those epic Wales v Australia encounters that have happened at student and full international level when home winger Chris Leyshon intercepted a loose ball 35 yards from the line and just about squeezed in for captain Courtney Davies to land a spectacular conversion from the touchline. But the Australian youngsters were determined not to let Wales anywhere near them again. By half-time, the Aussies had extended their lead to a 30-6 and the Welsh cause looked decidedly lost. Wing Tom Hughes went in for the first of his tries on 13 minutes after he went in under the posts. Home hooker Connor Farrar was one of the best players in the Welsh team and managed to secure a great individual turn-over as Australia again pressed in the Welsh half.
But it was only a plug to stem the torrent as Hughes got his second on 18 minutes, Hazzard completed his own try double and, after the Australians were twice denied tries when referee Chris Kendall called that they had not grounded the ball, interchange Tyson Cleal eventually got them away from any possible Welsh comeback threat.
From there, it left Wales flapping and only their sheer pride and determination prevented the match becoming a rout. Interchange Nathan Wilson got the IOS into a 36-6 lead but with great obstenance, Wales held out until wing Shaun Hughes crashed over for another try, Australia's eighth, on 57 minutes when the incredible Hazzard set it up. Lively hooker Peter Nay got his just rewards 12 minutes before time with a try which was a real gem as he took a play-the-ball from 40 metres and danced past two Welsh defenders to go over under the posts.
Hudson got his second try seven minutes from time but Wales had the last word as Jordan Howells crashed over under a pile of bodies and was adjudged to have grounded the ball for Davies to kick his second conversion of the night.
But AIS coach Brad Drew, the man in charge of the players who will become the next great stars of Aussie rugby league, said Wales put up a game fight. Drew said: "The Welsh have got some decent players in their side and our boys, we had three games of preparation coming into the UK, so I challenged their mentality.
"We have not been on the training paddock for a few days but I was pleased with the way they approached it and stood up and responded. I am trying to give the players a fair crack and I don't know who is best and who is not. There were a lot of times in the game where our ball control was loose but you can't have it all and I'm happy that the boys have done well - particularly in (freezing cold) weather that we are not used to.
"Wales are a work in progress and they have some very good players in their side. They have plenty of potential and I hope all of those players get the opportunity to do themselves proud and go on to play for their country at senior level."
Match report: Gary Baker.
Pictured: Christian Hazzard kicks through.
Photo credit: www.ianlovell.com
Jacon Morgan, Alex Jones, Kylum Austin, Jordan Howells, Chris Leyshon, Jordan Sheridan, Courtney Davies, Jack Condy, Connor Farrer, Osian Phillips, Rhys Anderson, Jason Blackmmore, Rhys Pugsley. Subs: Levi Quirke Knowles, Calvin Wellington, Rhys Fitzgerald, Luke Kell
Andrew Heffernan, Shaun Hudson, Brad Capello, Scott Williams, Tom Hughes, Nici O’Hara, Christian Hazzard, Antonio Inzittai, Peter Nay, Jo Gardiner, Brian Gentles, Anthony Coleman, Kial Hulls. Subs: Nathan Wilson, Michael Barclay, Tyson Cleal, Perry Ioane