WALES SCHOOLBOYS 18 ENGLAND YOUTH 22
By Gary Baker
WALES came within five minutes of a first ever win over England at under-16 level. But prop Jake Campbell saved the English bacon and gave them a second win in three matches over the past few weeks.
It was hard luck on the Welsh team who were 16 points down within the opening 12 minutes and heading for a serious beating only to fight back and nearly cause an upset at The Gnoll, Neath.
England took just four minutes to get their noses in front when captain Aaron Smith went driving over for a try which scrum-half Lewis Fairhurst converted.
Then second row Jordan Lane barged his way past the Welsh defensive tackles in the left corner for England's second try before stand-off James Brown dashed down the middle and rounded the last defender to cross under the posts, making Fairhurst's conversion simple.
That, though, was the last time England crossed the Welsh line until a final flourish saw them stave off a shock defeat. Wales woke up and gave England a rough time before the break, which could not come quick enough for Stuart Barrow's visitors.
The home crowd roared as the fightback started with a dazzling try from stand-off Morgan Knowles, who converted his own touchdown. He strode away from forty metres after winger Regan Grace slipped past the English defence on half-way.
Big Welsh forward Lloyd Bodman made himself a nuisance all afternoon and was held-up when over the line twice in the second period.
It was from a drive inches from the line by Bodman that interchange Alex King played the ball and found the smallest of gap to dummy and dive over the line.
That unconverted try Wales six points adrift and with the momentum to add even more points. The whistle of referee Craig Kay was a welcome relief for Barrow and his side and a showstopper for home coach Dave Clark.
England could have regrouped and hit back in the second-half but Wales did not read the script. Instead, after one attack which came close to and English try, they battered at the door, forcing their opponents into numerous errors.
Eventually, Wales breached the defence when wing Zac Williams scored the try of the match. England were metres from the Welsh line when they lost the ball, Williams picked up and pinned his ears back a full ninety metres from the try-line.
He burst his lungs and looked likely to be hauled down by chasing Jack Etchells but one last effort saw Williams over the line.
Then Wales were ahead as full-back Ben Jones found his way past four defenders from five metres to go over and give his country a 18-16 lead with five minutes left.
There was one last twist, though, as the home fans looked to celebrate. Wing Roshane Johnson penetrated in the Welsh 25 and gave a pass inside for Campbell's converted try that broke home hearts and sent England home with a relieving smile on their face.
Scorers: Wales: Tries: Morgan Knowles, Alex King, Zac Williams, Ben Jones. Con: Morgan Knowles.
England: Tries: Aaron Smith, Jordan Lane, James Brown, Jake Campbell. Cons: Lewis Fairhurst (3).