By Ben Hart in Treviso
A feisty affair in Treviso ended with a narrow 30-24 victory for Wales over Georgia in the Under-20 Six Nations Summer Series, with a bonus-point win consolidating their place at the top of Pool B.
An early scuffle seemed to stir both sides and the hits flew in for the duration. While Georgia had the advantage over Wales at the set-piece in the first half, Wales responded immediately after the break and conceded just a solitary penalty kick in the second half.
Harri Houston crossed twice for Byron Hayward’s side, with Dan Edwards and Joe Hawkins also on the scoresheet, while Giorgi Maisuradze, Beka Shvangiradze and Giorgi Kervalishvili registered for the Junior Lelos.
Key Player: Joe Hawkins
A captain’s performance from the Ospreys centre.
His team were far from their best in Treviso, or at least some way short of their levels from the Scotland game.
He played a key role in their first try and crossed for their third just after half time, latching onto a delightful chip from scrum-half Morgan Lloyd.
And having slightly misplaced a cross-kick for Oli Andrew in Round 1, he made no mistake this time when finding Harri Houston for the match-winning fourth score.
Play of the game: Champagne rugby at its finest
Rugby 7s gets underway at the Commonwealth Games in a month’s time, and Team Wales might have a few new recruits on the evidence of their first try today.
And it was hooker Oli Burrows on his first start of the series who sensed the danger. The Exeter Chiefs man stepped in as first receiver just inside the Georgia half and ushered Hawkins to wait behind. The decoy run of Nathan Evans run drew the attention of two Georgia defenders, freeing up Hawkins out the back.
After Hawkins beat Tornike Kakhoidze on the outside the score seemed inevitable. Christ Tshiunza then fed Ethan Fackrell before fly-half Edwards finished a quite brilliant move.
Key talking point: Georgia’s secret weapon
While they were certainly physical against Italy, Georgia did not unleash the full potential of their rolling maul as they did today and Hayward’s side had no answer to it in the first half.
Their first score was a classic of the lineout-drive genre, with hooker Giorgi Maisuradze perfectly positioned to touch down at the rear.
It was No.8 Beka Shvangiradze’s turn next just a couple of phases after a maul had taken them to within inches of the Wales line.
The third of the first half was the pick of the bunch. The throw came outside out the Wales 22 but that did not deter Georgia, who hoisted Lasha Tsikhistavi aloft at the very rear of their line and set the drive.
Although the plan was obvious by this point there was still no quick fix for Wales. The Georgian forwards pushed, peeled back around and pushed again until lock Kervalishvili flopped over.
Wales were helpless to stop the drive, especially in the first 40, and Scotland have a lot of due diligence to do before they face Lado Kilasonia’s side next Wednesday.
Key moment: Hawkins an instant hit
The momentum was firmly with Georgia going into the break. They had just scored their third try and proved for a third time just how effective their set piece could be.
So when Wales’ skipper Hawkins scored within 35 seconds of the second half, it shifted the momentum of the game completely.
Wales still trailed by a point after that score, but they never looked like surrendering the lead from that moment onwards.
Josh Phillips kicked a penalty to put them ahead a short while later and Houston gave them breathing space midway through the second period.
The Six Nations Under-20 Summer Series takes place from 24 June – 12 July. Fans can watch every match live. For more information visit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJHm6BFw-9JRA1CMekNLwMg