England will play Wales and France face Scotland in the semi-finals of the Under 19s European Championship at the Makis Stadium in Belgrade on Wednesday, when the ranking semi- finals for the Plate will also be played writes Phil Caplan.
In the opening fixtures, Wales set a record score for their international sides with a 90-0 shellacking of Ukraine, scoring 15 tries and as many goals. Warrington full back Lewis Hall led the way with a try and 13 conversions for a 30 point haul.
“We were professional with everything we did and it was good to get the nil,” said Wales head coach Anthony Walker. “We know we’ve got a big challenge ahead with England, there is a real rivalry, I think it’ll be a close game.”
England overcame hosts Serbia, also without conceding a point with an 11-try, 64-0 exhibition; centre Rob Crompton from Leigh Miners and full back Chris Teare of Wath Brow both claiming hat tricks.
Head coach Allan Coleman said: “We’ve set a target to just focus on one game at a time. We’re happy with that performance but we know we will need to improve if we want to go further into the competition and have a chance of winning the championship.”
Scotland fought off a spirited Irish challenge, leading 18-0 at the break and holding on to triumph 28-18 after the Wolfhounds had drawn level; Charlie Emslie and winger Fergus Simpson with the clinching Bravehearts scores.
“I never doubted that we were going to win the game,” said Scotland head coach Danny Addy. “We killed ourselves throughout with penalties, giving them away when we had the ball. Credit Ireland, they pushed us to the very end of the game,”
Pre-tournament favourites France put in a commanding performance, beating Italy 70-0, Saint Esteve XIII Catalan stand-off Arthur Morgue leading the way with two tries and nine goals. General manager of the young Tricolours, Florian Chautard, reflected: “It was a good win for us but we are a little disappointed with the first half performance as everyone was trying to break the gap to score and not playing to the structure. Once we got it right we were hard to hold.”
Ireland, for whom two-try Sam Cullen was impressive, now come up against the Italians in the Shield. Wolfhounds U19s head coach Wayne Kelly said: “I’m so proud of these boys and they’ve come a long way from where they started. Small margins defined the outcome.”
His counterpart, Italy’s Salavatore Pezzano, said: “I think my players played well but there were too many errors in the tackle and not enough attention to complete the set against a side who were very good with the ball.”
Hosts Serbia take on Ukraine in the other plate semi and their head coach Neil Bijorac confirmed: “We’ve come up against a strong England team and the ruck speed hurt us in the first 15 minutes. There’s plenty of things we can take forward into the next game, so we’ll work on it and see what we can come up with.”
Ukraine’s head coach Ihor Yurkin added: “We conceded a lot but we can take positives from the character of the team who kept playing and were struggling at the end because of the effort put in.”
Wednesday 8 August 2018
Ranking Semi-Final: Serbia v Ukraine (2.00pm)
Cup Semi-Final: England v Wales (4.00pm)
Ranking Semi-Final: Ireland v Italy (5.30pm)
Cup Semi-Final: Scotland v France (6.00pm)