Wales Under-18s – who included five Dragons in the match day squad – were made to pay for errors as they lost out 23-13 to South Africa Schools at the Paul Roos Gymnasium, Stellenbosch on Friday.
It was a case of what might have been for Wales as South Africa ruthlessly exploited any mistakes to claim the win.
Wales – who featured Ollie Howard, Morgan Richards, Ben Carter, Carrick McDonough and Jake Morgan – now prepare to meet the South African Schools A team and France in their other two fixtures.
Wales head coach Chris Horsman said: “In a game in tricky conditions on a heavy pitch where two games had already been played on it, we tried to play a lot of rugby and we physically matched them. Our set-piece was excellent, I thought our line-out and scrum was dominant.
“We had six guys making their U18 international debuts in a side where the majority of the team are 17-year-olds so they will be back next year.
“The good thing for me was that every player came off the field actually starting to show and demonstrate their potential which is what the trip is all about.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the result, but in terms of performance I thought the boys fronted up excellently – for a group of 16 and 17-year-olds I thought we were physically outstanding, as we played all the rugby in the game.
“On a big heavy pitch against a South Africa side who very direct and played a very strong pick and go game, a couple of loose balls bounced and they scored a couple of tries and we probably left about four or five out there.
“I spoke to the players at the end of the game and said sport can be a cruel game, you can give everything, perform at the height of your ability and still not get the result.”
SA Schools: Tries: Jurich Claasens, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Jarrod Taylor; Con: Kian Meadon; Pens: Kian Meadon (2)
Wales: Try: Joe Hawkins; Con: Thomas Mathews; Pens: Thomas Mathews (2)
Wales U18 v SA Schools
15 Dan John (Exiles/Millfield)
14 Carrick McDonough (Dragons/Cross Keys Coll)
13 Mason Grady (Ospreys/Glantaf/Bro Morgannwg)
12* Joe Hawkins (Ospreys/Neath/Port Talbot Coll)
11 Morgan Richards (Dragons/Newport High School)
10 Tom Mathews (Northampton(Exiles)/Hartpury Coll)
9 Ethan Lloyd (Blues/Ysgol Cwm Rhondda);
1 Theo Bevacqua (Harlequins/Exiles/Eastbourne Coll)
2 Oliver Burrows (captain, Ospreys/Millfield)
3 Archie Griffin (Bath/Exiles/Marlborough)
4 Christ Tshiunza (Exeter/Exiles/Whitchurch HS)
5 James Fender (Ospreys/Neath/Port Talbot Coll)
6 Rhys Thomas (Ospreys/Neath/Port Talbot Coll)
7* Ollie Howard (Dragons/Tredegar)
8 Alex Mann (Coleg y Cymoedd)
16 Rhodri King (Scarlets/Coleg Sir Gar)
17 Lewys Jones (Ospreys/Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera)
18 Kieran Stevens (Ospreys/Bridgend Coll)
19* Peter Vickers (Wasps/Exiles/Newcastle-Under-Lyme)
20* Travis Huntley (Ospreys/Bridgend Coll)
21 Ben Carter (Dragons/Caldicot)
22 Bradley Roderick (Ospreys/Neath Port Talbot Coll)
23* Luke Davies (Scarlets/Coleg Sir Gar)
24* Ben Burnell (Blues/Coleg y Cymoedd)
25* Jake Morgan (Dragons/Lewis Pengam)
26* Jake Thomas (Blues/Cowbridge HS)
The good thing for me was that every player came off the field actually starting to show and demonstrate their potential...