Late long-range penalty sends Wales U20s in to final against South Africa

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Joe Hawkins is congratulated after sealing Wales' place in the final of Under-20 Six Nations Summer Series. Picture: Six Nations Rugby.
Joe Hawkins is congratulated after sealing Wales' place in the final of Under-20 Six Nations Summer Series. Picture: Six Nations Rugby.

A LATE Joe Hawkins penalty from just inside the Italy half saw Wales edge into the final in the Under-20 Six Nations Summer Series.

The sides were level at 20-20 in the top of the table clash in Pool B – with both Wales and Italy winning their two opening games.

But with five minutes left on the clock, the Ospreys centre sent a penalty over the posts from 45 metres out.

Wales will now go on to face Pool A winners South Africa in the final at the Stadio di Monigo in Treviso on Tuesday.

Hawkins had taken over kicking duties after Dan Edwards injured his knee against Georgia, and the captain’s boot proved decisive with 13 points.

He opened the scoring three minutes into the match with a penalty, but ten minutes later, Byron Hayward’s side were reduced to 14 men as Dragons prop Nathan Evans was shown a yellow card after conceding a series of scrum penalties.

Italy took full advantage of their extra man, with Dewi Passarella going over in the far left-hand corner after the hosts switched play quickly from a scrum on the opposite side of the pitch.

Hawkins put Wales back in front with a penalty, but Italy regained their advantage with their second try of the match.

From a scrum in the far left corner, Italy came inside and full back Lorenzo Pani skipped through two men to touch down underneath the posts.

Just after the half-hour mark, Christ Tshiunza attempted to drive through from a penalty five yards out. The Italy line held strong, but were unable to repel Evans who powered over. Hawkins converted to take the lead 13-12.

Italy retook the lead in the hotly-contested match thanks to a Sante penalty, but Pani’s 39th minute yellow card opened the door for Tshiunza to go one better than his previous attempt and bulldozing through three Italy players from a kick-and-go five yards out.

After a high-scoring first half – 20-15 to Haywards’ side – the second half was a more tense affair.

Both sides were reduced to 14 men as – after a series of broken down scrums – the referee sent Wales’ Rhys Barrett and Italy’s Riccardo Genovese to the sin bin.

After a third Welsh yellow card, this time Adam Williams, Italy pulled level.  A scrum under the posts was quickly switched long out to Federico Cuminetti on the left touchline, who cut inside and went over. The Azzurri failed to convert meaning the scores were level with just 10 minutes remaining.

But Wales showed their mettle to earn a penalty and Hawkins stepped up to nail it from distance, and secure a notable victory.

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