Wales failed to win a game in the U20 Six Nations but proved to be hearty opponents with a menacing maul and stubborn refusal to surrender when New Zealand apparently had the game in control late in the second half.
New Zealand made a clinical start when All Blacks Sevens wing Caleb Tangitau crossed in the seventh minute on the right wing. New Zealand won a scrum in midfield 25m out and created space on the blindside with a decoy by fullback Harry Godfrey and a skip pass by first-five Taha Kemara. Kemara would play a vital role in the outcome, but he had to wait to impose his influence.
New Zealand was frustratingly inaccurate for most of the first half as Wales utilised the stiff Paarl breeze and enjoyed two-thirds of possession and territory.
Hooker Lewis Lloyd scored the Scarlets' first try from a lineout maul and then that weapon enveloped the New Zealand defense and enabled first-five Dan Edwards to slip through a hole and make it 12-5.
Lloyd was denied a second by a desperate Peter Lakai before his bustling opposite Morgan Morse had New Zealand reeling at 19-5. The Welsh No.8 had been penalised earlier for a double movement too.
The interval was a welcome relief for New Zealand and the tone changed early in the second spell when Tangitau nailed the Welsh winger from a pinpoint Noah Hotham box kick. From the ensuing penalty Crusaders winger Macca Springer scored from an overlap to close the gap to 19-10.
The New Zealand loose forwards were hungrier and started to dictate the breakdown. Openside Sam Hainsworth-Fa’aofo crossed near the posts to reduce the deficit to 19-17.
A penalty from close range to the assured Godfrey propelled New Zealand ahead 20-19 in the 55th minute.
The tactical kicking of Kemara was quality often forcing the Welsh hand from deep. In the 61st minute, Kemara did his best Richie Mo'unga impersonation cross-kicking towards the wing of Springer who leaped in the air and tapped it into the hands of unmarked blindside Che Clark for a try. A sideline conversion by Kemara would be telling.
Wales rallied and following robust tackling and ill-discipline reserve prop Gabe Robinson was sent to the sin bin. Predictably Wales resorted to the lineout drive and Sam Scarfe rumbled over for a try that was overturned by the television match official because of a knock-on.
Wales had a penalty advantage however and Scarfe wouldn’t be denied with take-two. A sideline conversion to Dan Edwards created an anxious finish for New Zealand but when Wales fumbled the kick-off their prospects were dashed.
Clark was officially named man of the match. He made nine tackles, won seven lineouts, and gained 69m with nine carries. Lakai was equally industrious.
New Zealand’s next match is against defending champions France on Thursday at 11:30pm NZT. France opened their campaign with a 75-12 win over Japan. France beat Wales 67-16 in the Six Nations.
New Zealand became the first team to accomplish 50 wins in the World Championships. It took 61 games. England is the next most successful country with 47 wins.
New Zealand U20: 27 (Caleb Tangitau, Macca Springer, Sam Hainsworth-Fa’aofo, Che Clark tries; Taha Kemara 2 con, Harry Godfrey pen) Wales U20: 26 (Lewis Lloyd, Dan Edwards, Morgan Morse, Sam Scarfe tries; Dan Edwards 3 con) HT: 5-19