Wales Under 18 full back Morgan Williams is tackled by Australia's Henry Hutchison
Allan Lewis' Wales Under 18 side outscored Australia Schools by four tries to two in a 26-12 victory at The Gnoll.
The success was built on a superb first half performance, Wales leading 14-0 at the break and extending that advantage to 19-0 soon after the interval.
A score from centre Garyn Smith and a penalty try, both converted by fly half Luke Price, had seen Wales pull well clear and when wing Josh Adams added a third, Wales looked to have victory in the bag.
Up till that point, Australia had shown very little with Andrew Deegan's missed penalty their only chance of points. But after going 19-0 down, they showed some fight when Wales' Jordan Viggars was yellow carded.
Captain Jack McCalman and fellow backrower Lolo Fakaosilea both touched down and with Deegan adding a conversion, Australia were back in it. After such a good first half performance, defeat would have been inconceivable for Wales and on the stroke of the final whistle, Tyler Morgan made sure of the victory, crashing over under the posts for Wales' fourth try of the day.
After a ferocious opening 10 minutes, in which both teams laid down early physical markers, it was Australia who had the first chance of points. The Welsh forwards were penalised for offside but Deegan, from 30 metres, saw his penalty effort clip the wrong side of the right hand upright.
With both teams keen to throw the ball around, the pristine surface at The Gnoll couldn't have been better suited to free-flowing rugby. And while Wales saw more of the ball in the opening 10 minutes, the final pass just didn't quite go to hand. Scrum half Tom Williams' slick service was a notable feature but aside from two superb breaks from wing Rhys Geally, Wales initially failed to breach the Wallaby defence.
While a try failed to arrive at first, Wales deserved credit for their patience in attack and they were soon rewarded when Smith opened the scoring. When it came, it was a simple but nonetheless impressive try, the Wales centre making a clean line break and showing an impressive turn of foot to touch down under the posts. Price added the simple conversion for what was a fully deserved 7-0 lead.
With the scoreboard now ticking over, the game settled down but it was the home side who continued to do all the attacking. Wales camped themselves inside the Australian half and proceeded to add a second try. Price decided to put a kickable penalty into the corner and after a huge surge from the Welsh pack, the Australian eight retreated at a rapid rate of knots. Referee David Proctor decided the Wallabies were using illegal means to stop the Welsh momentum and to some surprise, ran under the posts to award a penalty try.
Price again added the extras and with Australia offering very little in attack, Wales took their 14-0 advantage into the break.
The start of the second half was as intense as the first, but with Australia offering far more in attack. Wales though, looked like the more likely to score. From a re-set scrum on the Australian 22, Wales looked unlucky to be penalised but with captain Jon Fox and the rest of the forwards laying a solid platform, the Welsh backs did the rest. Adams added a third try, skipping through in the left corner though Price was awry with his most difficult kick of the night.
At 19-0 down, Australia needed a response and they needed it quickly. To their credit, they produced just that and in double quick time, were soon back in the game. After finally gaining some territory, the Wallabies pounded the Wales line with the pressure eventually seeing Viggars yellow carded. With a man advantage, McCalman was then bundled over from a forward drive and giant flanker Fakaosilea, who drove his side on relentlessly, made the most of a giant overlap. Deegan converted the first of those tries and after total Welsh dominance for a little less than an hour, there were now just seven points in the game.
With a fight on their hands, Wales were now on the back foot. But the sign of a good team is how they react to adversity and Lewis' men showed plenty of character to close out the game. Price put a penalty effort wide but with Wales having most of the territory, the fly half made amends.
From first phase ball, he darted through the Australian defence and found Morgan, who impressed the watching Shaun Edwards with his strong running, steaming up on his left shoulder.
And when Price made the pass, there was no stopping the Dragons man as he made his way to the line for the decisive score. The conversion was added to seal what was a hard-fought but deserved Welsh victory.
We hear from Dove Men's Player of the Series Dan Biggar in this week's Principality Welsh Rugby Union Podcast. We also speak to scrum half rivals Rhys Webb and Mike Phillips, the Swansea prop who will be a key player for Oxford in the Varsity Match at Twickenham, Ian Williams, plus John Dawes, John Taylor and Peter Morgan pay tribute to Ray Williams.
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.