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International Round-Up: Wales take on Ireland in the Six Nations festival

International | 15th April 2022

The Under-18 Six Nations Festival continued in Scotland and Ireland earlier this week, with a host of Cardiff youngsters representing their country. Here is a round-up of how they got on.

Women’s Six Nations Campaign

After securing wins over Scotland and Italy on the opening day, Wales were up against Ireland in a 70-minute contest to finish their campaign.

A total of nine Cardiff players were named in the matchday squad including back row Gwennan Hopkins, who co-captained the side alongside Scarlets’ Jenna de Vera.

Wales got off to an electric start at the home of Edinburgh Rugby, crossing within a couple of minutes of the kick off.

Having squandered an Irish counter attack, they struck from first phase of the resulting line-out, shipping the ball wide through the hands of Mya Dixon, Gwennan Hopkins and Jess Rogers. 

Despite Rogers’ pass going to ground, Cardiff centre Gabby Healan showed impressive footballing skills to keep control of possession, gathering the loose ball and sending Nel Metcalfe clear for the game’s opening score.

Healan continued to be a threat for the Irish defence in the 13 channel, but the girls in green did find a reply mid-way through the first half through outside half Kate Flannery, becoming the first team of the Championship to score against Wales’ resilient defence. 

The scores were level at the break but Wales once again came flying out of the block in the second half, regaining the lead as Molly Wakley crashed over from a rampant driving line-out.

They made it a quickfire double immediately from the restart as Blue and Blacks wing Grace Bellamy tore down the right hand side, beating a number of Irish defenders with her pace. She was eventually halted but managed to free an offload to send replacement Lowri Elias clear for Wales’ third of the afternoon.

With Wales reduced to 14 women following the sin-binning of Sian Jones, Hannah Wilson pulled one back for Ireland to make it a seven-point game heading into a tense final 20 minutes in Edinburgh.

However, Liza Burgess’ side - underpinned by aggressive line-speed, powerful ball carrying and a solid set-piece - kept a late Ireland revival at bay to ensure they finished the campaign with a 100 per cent record.

Cardiff back row Hopkins said: “It was a really physical game but we felt we matched Ireland in that respect. We’ve come so far in the last five or six weeks. Everyone has given 100% and you can see that with the results.

“It’s a really exciting time to be a Welsh rugby player. Having senior players like Siwan Lillicrap, Elinor Snowsill and Cerys Hale come into our camps has been really inspiring.”

Men’s Six Nations Campaign

The men were also up against Irish opposition in Marcoussis, looking to bounce back from the weekend defeat to England.

Harry Beddall led the side out in France but Wales found themselves 10 points down in the early stages after Stephen Smyth’s try and five points from the boot of Sean Naughton.

Matt O’Brien’s side replied as Dragons full back Huw Anderson slid over, with Cardiff’s Louie Hennessey claiming the assist.

Both sides used the power of their driving line-outs to cross for their second scores respectively, and while Wales were temporarily reduced to 14 men after Morgan Morse was shown a yellow card, Jonny Green’s late try in the first half ensured only a point separated the sides at the break.

However, two interception tries put Ireland in the driving seat and left Wales chasing the game.

The men in red did pull one back through replacement Ioan Duggan, with Hennessey once again providing the spark in midfield.

But it was Ireland who got the last word, with Luke Kritzinger’s try making it 46-26 on the day.

Wales will face France on Sunday as they close out their campaign against the hosts.