Wales v Italy: Main talking points from the Six Nations Under-20 summer series
Wales will face South Africa for the Six Nations Summer Series Under-20 title after a thrilling 23-20 victory over hosts Italy sealed their place at the top of Pool B, writes Ben Hart.
Arguably these two saved the best game of the group stage until the end, and even though it was a low scoring affair, it had all the makings of a classic, with a late penalty from Wales captain Joe Hawkins sending his side to the showpiece of the tournament. .
Italy are more than worthy Pool B runners-up, and their scores on the night came from Dewi Passarella, Lorenzo Pani and Federico Cuminetti, while Nathan Evans and Christ Tshiunza lined up to dominate Wales.
Key player – Christ Tshiunza
Second row Tshiunza endured a rough afternoon against Georgia but is back to his usual self here.
He refused to let Wales strike from the corner when it seemed like a reasonable option after a close-range penalty was awarded at a crucial moment in the first half. He instead insisted he lead the charge from a tap penalty.
It was foiled first in the first instance but went past the second round and that scoreline gave Wales a 20-15 half-time lead.
The Exeter Chiefs lock then slammed into Giovanni Sante after the break with a tackle that put the Welsh fans on their feet at a time when every shot and every break seemed to be a game-changer and changing momentum as points.
Big games demand big performances, and this was certainly one of the two-capped senior international’s.
Game of the game – Pani drills
Although devastated by the result, Italy coach Massimo Brunello couldn’t have built Italy’s second try better if he had tried.
The Azzurrini were clearly trying to send a message to their opponents from the start, opting for a scrum on the Wales five-yard line instead of kicking on touchdown.
They couldn’t get the power to push them over the line there, but fears that the opportunity was wasted were quickly extinguished.
The ball passed through the hands before finding its way to Francois Carlo Mey who fizzled the ball into the path of rushing Pani.
The precision of the pass was such that Pani didn’t have to break his stride and punched the hole between Cameron Winnett and Harri Houston to score wide of the sticks.
Key Talking Point – What Finale We Have In Store
All attention now turns to the final, which will be contested by the two best teams in the tournament – the only two to have won all three of their pool matches.
While South Africa will certainly bring physicality, Wales will be looking to beat them wide with the pace they boast on the flanks in the form of Harri Houston and Oli Andrew.
Wales are arguably the most improved team since the Six Nations Under-20s and deserve their shot at the Pool A winners. They will also be well supported at Treviso and enjoy their status as outsider before this tie next Tuesday.
Key moment – Hawkins on the money
What a moment and what a strike from the Welsh skipper. He was tasked with kicking goal for the first time in the series here, but it looked like he had been given that responsibility from the start, such was the ease with which he kicked the ball.
He saved the best for last with an incredible effort to win the match. With the scores tied and Italy close to qualifying on points difference, Hawkins took responsibility halfway through and broke his effort through the uprights to spark delirium among the traveling help.
The group stages of the Six Nations Under-20 Summer Series were full of individual moments of brilliance and this kick will rank among the best of them.
The Six Nations Under-20 Summer Series runs from June 24 to July 12. Fans can watch every match live. For more information visit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJHm6BFw-9JRA1CMekNLwMg