The Wales and England Community Lions under 18 sides fought a thrilling 26-all draw at Caerphilly on Wednesday night but both sides know they must lift their game when they both come up against the might of Australia in their next games.
Wales take on the Australians in Caerphilly again next Tuesday while the English will face them at Featherstone Rovers’ ground three days later on Friday November 26. Both games kick-off at 7.30pm.
England came into the Welsh game on the back of a 34-8 defeat to France Juniors in Bordeaux and it looked like they were going the same way in Caerphilly in the first 20 minutes when Wales dominated.
But England pulled the game back, taking the lead in the second half before a late Chris Davies try, his second of the game, ensured that the spoils were shared.
An early England chance was wasted when Ryan Smith attempted to set up Blake Mahovic but the centre fumbled and possession was lost.
But Wales took the lead from their first attack when Dale Evans set up South Wales Scorpions new signing Chris Davies who twisted his way over. Courtney Davies added the easy conversion.
England struck back on eight minutes when Birmingham Bulldogs’ Ryan Millar pounced on a loose ball following a grubber kick. Luke Willings’ kick was centimetres wide to leave the visitors two points behind.
Wales extended their lead on the quarter hour. Jean Baptiste Bruzhulier, from Cardiff would you believe, set up the score by running 60 metres breaking free of the England backline. He laid off to Dafydd Carter who in turn set up James Griffiths to score in the corner.
Straight away Wales scored again when Dale Evans completed a fine attacking move involving most of the backs. Courtney Davies had missed the previous conversion but made no mistake this time to make the score 16-4 to Wales.
England came back again when Millar scored his and England’s second in exactly the same position as the first on 24 minutes. David Pyke converted.
And four minutes later they were level when Jacob Blades set up Nathan Slater to go in just left of the sticks and Pyke goaled again.
But Wales went into half-time with a 20-16 lead when Dafydd Carter set up Matthew Crane to go over. Davies’ kick was only just wide of the posts.
They almost extended their advantages six minutes into the second half but Michael Channing was pulled into touch by Jacob Blades when diving for the line.
England recovered, worked their way up the field and Jack Francis broke through to sprint the last 20 metres to the line to level the scores again. Pyke missed the kick.
From then on it was end to end as both sides tried to get a winner. England’s Joe Bullock fumbled behind his own line but Wales didn’t take advantage on the resulting set of six.
The visitors took advantage from their next attack as Blake Mahovic scored a fine individual try with Pyke converting for England to take the lead for the first time on 55 minutes.
Wales pushed for another equaliser. Courtney Davies kicked a cheeky grubber but Morgan was beaten to the ball by his opposite number Jacob Blades.
Morgan was then denied for a second time from the restart, being pushed into touch ten metres from the try-line by a pack of England defenders.
But Wales finally crossed the line three minutes from time with Chris Davies getting his second under the sticks and Courtney Davies converting.
“Credit to the lads that they fought hard to earn a draw but we were disappointed not to have won,” said Wales coach Stuart Williams. “We know we’re playing catch-up with England all the time with the amount of experience they have, but we’ve not lost to them in the last four outings now which is some achievement. And to be disappointed to earn a draw shows how far we’ve come in the last few years.”
1. Jacob Morgan (Cardiff Demons / Crusaders)
2. James Griffiths (CPC Bears / Crusaders)
3. Michael Channing (Harlequins)
4. Jack Pring (Crusaders)
5. Rhys Fenton (Newport Titans / Crusaders)
6. Dafydd Carter (Blackwood Bulldogs / Crusaders)
7. Courtney Davies (NPT Steelers / Crusaders)
8. Chris Davies (Valley Cougars / South Wales Scorpions)
9. Dale Evans (Crusaders)
10. Dan Crimmins (Newport Titans)
11. Matthew Meek (Harlequins)
12. Matthew Crane (Penallta Storm / Crusaders)
13. Rhodri Lloyd (Penallta Storm / Crusaders)
15. Kyle Blackmore (Crusaders)
16. Michael Griffiths (CPC Bears / Crusaders)
19. Rhys Watkins (Penallta Storm / Crusaders)
20. Jean Baptiste Bruzhulier (Cardiff Demons)
Tries: Chris Davies (2, 67), J.Griffiths (15), Evans (18), Crane (32)
Goals: Courtney Davies 3/5
1. Jacob Blades (Holderness Vikings)
2. Joe Bullock (Blackpool Scorpions)
3. Jamie Acton (Hemel Hempstead)
4. Blake Mahovic (West Cumbria)
5. Ryan Millar (Birmingham Bulldogs)
6. Adam Swift (Blackbrook)
7. Nathan Slater (Myton Warriors)
8. Jack Francis (Saddleworth)
9. Callum Phillips (West Cumbria)
10. Jack Gay (Hull Dockers)
11. Luke Willings (West Bank)
12. Dave Pyke (Thatto Heath)
13. Jack Bussey (Stanningley)
14. Nathan Skupski (Thatto Heath)
15. Ryan Green (Holderness Vikings)
16. Sam Baker (West Hull)
17. Alistair Leak (West Cumbria)
Tries: Millar (8, 24), Slater (28), Francis (43), Mahovic (55)
Goals: Willings 0/1, Pyke 2/3, Bussey 1/1
Referee: Haydn Edwards
Scoring Sequence: 6-0, 6-4, 10-4, 16-4, 16-10, 16-16, 20-16, 20-20, 20-26, 26-26
For more information about Wales Rugby League, visit www.walesrugbyleague.co.uk