Rugby Union: Young Wales setting the pre-cup pace

Junior Dragons in impressive form at under-19 tournament
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The Independent Online
THE PARAPHERNALIA that goes with the programme for the 31st World Junior Championship suggests this is the "Biggest Rugby Show on Earth." If Wales continue to play as well as they did in beating Argentina 29- 5 in last night's quarter-final at the Brewery Field, Bridgend, Welsh rugby will be toasting the "Greatest Rugby Show on Earth."

In World Cup year it is fitting this exciting junior competition should come to Britain for the first time. At a cost more than pounds 1m, the event has brought together 1,000 of the world's best players at under-19 level.

Split into two sections, the major nations and the lesser rugby countries like Taiwan, Brazil and Ukraine, the competition has seen Wales defeat England, New Zealand beat Romania and France overcome a gallant Scottish side who had high hopes of emulating the feat of their Celtic comrades, Ireland, last season.

The Irish, who beat France in last season's final in Toulouse, proved British rugby is not the laughing stock some southern hemisphere cynics might have you believe. In fact, on the evidence of this performance from Wales, there is a real chance the young Dragons might emulate the feat of Shane Moore and his Irish side 12 months ago. They wiped the floor with England, 39-7, and proved every bit as efficient in dusting themselves down and picking themselves up for this encounter against Argentina.

Unfortunately the young Pumas were cynical in their own approach on this occasion and won few friends. They often overstepped the mark and at one stage were reduced to 14 men when the prop, Mariano Zanello Gastaldi, was sent to the sin bin.

By that time Wales had already moved into the lead thanks to a penalty from their stand-off Ceri Sweeney, who finished with 11 points. He had played a significant role in the demise of England and was instrumental in the first try of the night for Richard Johnson.

The Neath flier helped himself to a couple of tries on home territory on Friday and he achieved the same feat 20 miles up the road in Bridgend, when Sweeney once again got his backs moving to send the 18-year-old in at the corner.

For Welsh rugby, the sight of the next generation adopting the same style of their senior players brought relief. They extended their lead midway through the second half when Sweeney kicked another penalty and a try from the full-back Rhys Williams, converted by Sweeney, helped to knock the stuffing out of Argentina.

A consolation try from Nazur Marcelo was more than they deserved, but it was Wales who finished on top when first Sweeney and then his replacement, Gethin Worgan, kicked penalties. The side returns to the Brewery Field on Thursday for their semi-final and it will take a brave man to bet against a Welsh win and a welcome appearance in a major final.

Wales: Tries Johnson (2), Williams; Conversion Sweeney; Penalties Sweeney (3), Worgan. Argentina: Try Marcelo.

WALES: R Williams; K James, J Robinson, M Price, R Johnson; C Sweeney (G Worgan, 69), R Powell (D Peel, 69); D Patterson (R Mills, 67), C Thomas (S Nelson, 69), G Woods (R Davies, 69), D Adams (C Bowen, 65), A Jones (capt), J Bater, T Morris (A Chiffi, 69), M Owen.

ARGENTINA: L Borges (M Pennandini, 59); F L Jallaguer, L Lauria, D Del Llano (F Castagna, 59), P Aguila; A Di Bernardo, G Spikerman; M Zanello Gastaldi (P Albacette, 65), R Vidal (N Marcelo, 65), A Acuna, M Lugano, J P Lagarrigue (capt), G Lascurain (M Orgnani, 35), J Campero, R Araujo (D Merlo, 65).

Referee: J Jutge (France).

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