Wales U20 produced a stunning performance to make it two wins in a row in the U20 Six Nations as England U20 were overcome at Kingsholm on Friday night.
Head coach Gareth Williams had made just one change to the starting XV that had beaten reigning World Rugby U20 Championship champions France in Colwyn Bay last time out, with Will Griffiths and Dom Booth starting at hooker, and it showed in the early exchanges.
Wales started confidently in front of a big and typically vocal Gloucester crowd, playing on the front foot against a host nation who were smarting off the back of a defeat against Ireland U20 in round three.
The kicking game was playing a big part in proceedings early on as the men in red just edged it, and with that came plenty of territory but pressure could not be turned into points as England’s defence stood form throughout the opening 10 minutes.
It needed a moment of magic to get the scoreboard moving and it came from Sam Costelow as he took a pass at first receiver, saw nothing was on outside him so stepped back inside and broke a tackle to make a line break before breaking a second tackle and crossing for a stunning individual try.
The fly-half converted his own try but England hit back just over 10 minutes later as they flexed their power game, pushing a driving maul close before Emannuel Iyogun was in possession as a pick-and-go made it over the line.
It seemed like the hosts were starting to get the upper hand in proceedings but two huge high ball claims from Jacob Beetham prevented them pinning Wales back in our own half, and then just before the break that man Costelow was on hand to produce another moment of magic.
In a similar way to his earlier try he broke back on the inside to glide through a gap in the England defence around the breakdown, this time drawing a defender before finding Ben Carter in support and the big second row was equally skilful in getting his hands through a tackle and offloading for Bradley Roderick to score.
Costelow’s conversion made the score 5-14 at half-time, but it appeared that the English had been given a kick up the backside in the changing rooms, as they came out firing early in the second half.
A handling error from Wales gave them field position and on the second phase after the scrum George Barton was on hand to dive over from close range.
Costelow’s penalty extended the lead to seven-points but England continued to push, crossing the try line for a third time only for it to be ruled out for a forward pass in the build up.
Then came a moment of controversy as Beetham once again took to the sky to secure a high ball, only this time to be taken out by Freddie Stewart. The Wales full-back was forced from the field with what appeared to be a shoulder injury, but the referee decided it was only dangerous enough for a yellow card.
This was followed by a lapse in concentration from the men in red as an attempt to exit our own 22 saw Ellis Bevan drag the ball back over his own try line at the back of a breakdown, allowing Sam Crean to dive in and touch down for an opportunistic try.
Despite that being their third try of the evening, missing all three conversions meant England were still 15-17 down on the scoreboard, while Sam Costelow added another three points off the tee as he continued to be a point of difference between the sides.
It all changed with just under 10 minutes of the game to go though as the Welsh defence, solid throughout despite the three tries conceded, had a disappointing moment with Josh Gillepsie slicing through far too easily before finding Jack van Poortvliet on his inside shoulder who battled his way over.
A conversion at last from Will Haydon-Wood gave England a two-point lead and what seemed like would be a smash-and-grab victory at Kingsholm, but Costelow was not done yet.
Wales battled up to the opposition 22 and the fly-half dropped back into the pocket, slotting a nerveless drop goal to put the men in red ahead, a lead we held on to for a fourth win over England in six U20 Six Nations games.
Gareth Williams’ side rise to fourth in the table on the back of it, and could finish next weekend in second place if Ireland beat France, with England’s trip to Italy called off, a fantastic turnaround from losing the first two games of the tournament in disappointing fashion.