By Jon Newcombe
France remain on course for their first-ever Under 20 Six Nations Grand Slam after making it three wins out of three with a 16-10 victory over previously unbeaten Wales at Parc Eirias on Saturday.
Second row Jean-Baptiste Singer scored the only try of the match in Colwyn Bay and his second of the championship, while influential scrum half Baptiste Serin moved to the top of the points-scorer charts with 31 points after kicking 11 on the night.
With the rain lashing down from kick-off, try scoring opportunities were always going to be few and far between and the sides - who will meet again during the pool stages of JWC 2014 - went into the break locked at 3-3.
Serin got the scoring underway after five minutes when he was successful with his first shot at goal, but France were unable to convert their territorial dominance into any more points and Wales slowly grew into the contest.
After missing two difficult chances, fly half Ethan Davies kicked a penalty on 32 minutes to get the hosts on the scoreboard.
However Wales finished the half down to 14 men after debutant full back Steffan Evans was yellow carded for a high tackle on 35 minutes. Luckily for the home side, the indiscretion failed to cost them any points in the five minutes either side of half time.
Ironically, once back to a full complement of players Wales went behind for a second time, Serin coming up with another three-pointer in the 48th minute.
Worse was to come shortly afterwards as Singer dived over in the corner after a good shove from the France scrum, Serin’s conversion opening up a 10-point gap.
Wales then lost Dafydd Howells to the sin-bin as the hour mark approached, again for a high tackle, and Serin kicked the resulting penalty.
France were unable to capitalise on their numerical advantage, and Byron Hayward’s side grabbed a consolation score through replacement hooker Ethan Lewis. Luke Price added the conversion to make the final scoreline 16-10 to France.
The defeat was Wales’ first of the Six Nations and leaves them level on four points with England, who they play at Kingston Park in Newcastle on 7 March.
Saracens second row Maro Itoje scored his third try in as many Six Nations matches and there were further scores for wing Howard Packman on his home ground, centre Nick Tompkins and flanker Joel Conlon. Billy Burns was successful with two conversions and three penalty attempts for a personal haul of 13 points.
First win for Italy
“Ireland are a good side and had a real go at us, but we held firm and managed to put a decent score on the board,” said England coach Nick Walshe. “The positive thing is that we still feel that there is more to come from the guys. We’ll take a look back at this game now and identify what we need to work before we play Wales in Newcastle.”
The day before, Italy had managed to record a win for the first time in 13 attempts in the Under 20 Six Nations after a dominant first-half display laid the foundations for a 32-13 victory over Scotland.
Alessandro Troncon’s side scored three tries before the break to lead 24-3, full back Alessandro Torlai crossing the Scots’ line twice, either side of a try from scrum half Maicol Azzolin. Filippo Buscema was successful with all three conversion attempts and a penalty.
Captain and flanker Tommy Spinks led from the front to inspire a Scotland revival with two close-quarter tries, but it was a case of too little, too late from the visitors.
Buscema punished Scottish ill-discipline at the breakdown with another three-pointer and Italy’s first Six Nations win since March 2011 was crowned in style when replacement Matteo Gaspirini crossed late on.
“We made it pretty easy for them in the first half. I was proud of the boys in the second half, they went out and scored two tries to one and showed a lot of character. Then they gave away a really silly try at the end,” said Scotland coach Sean Lineen.
Scotland must now regroup to face France in a bottom versus top encounter at Netherdale in round four, while Italy travel to Ireland as they look to win twice in a championship for the first time in their history.