Dragons backs Dafydd Buckland and Deon Smith were left immensely proud following a famous last-gasp Wales win 8-7 against the All Blacks in the World Rugby under 20s in Argentina.
The last time Wales defeated New Zealand was in the pool stage in June 2012 in Stellenbosch, as Tom Prydie kicked the winning points for a Wales side that featured Jack Dixon and Matthew Screech.
Yesterday’s game was even more tense, with a one-point win, settled in the final minute with a late penalty by Cai Evans giving Wales victory by the narrowest of margins after New Zealand scored a second half converted try. The hugely memorable victory for Wales was made even more so by a game that was both dramatic and bizarre, with an electrical storm delaying proceedings by an hour during the first half.
“There’s a great feeling in the squad in what were awful conditions today,” said scrum-half Dafydd Buckland.
“I think the last time (Wales beat NZ) was about 7 years ago, so it’s unbelievable and I’m really proud of everyone.”
A first half try by Tian Thomas-Wheeler put Wales ahead, but then thirty minutes into the game thunder and lightning meant players had to go back to the dressing rooms for about an hour, and once the storm had passed there was an All Blacks’ storm to weather too.
“We had to regather, recuperate and then go back to perform for another 50 mins,” Daf explained.
“Conditions didn’t help the set piece today. It was the same for both sides, with conditions not helping either side, but lineouts were difficult today, when we are usually on the money, but we’ve come out on top in the end.”
Deon Smith started his second successive game of the tournament after moving to the right wing, and mid game had to move to centre to cover injury.
“It’s potentially a once-in-a-lifetime experience and today we have created history, so we’ll soak it all up and we’re all immensely proud of each other and shows how tight we are as a squad really.
“Luckily over the last season or so, I’ve had some game time at centre, so it was just a case of slotting in and getting my roles clear,” added Deon Smith.
“(After coming off) we had to come out mentally ready to go again and fair play, the boys delivered and reaped the rewards of a good shift.
“We’ve talked all tournament about the difference between confidence and cockiness and as a group of boys we are all down to earth, so we’ll stay focussed and be ready to go again.”
Wales will need to maintain that focus as they face a revitalised England side who have come back from defeat to Ireland in game one and an unconvincing win against Italy in round two, to face a play off for fifth place on Saturday.
“We’ve got England next,” said Daf, “there’s obviously a big rivalry, but it will be an interesting game and hopefully we can come out on top again.”
World Rugby under-20 Fifth-place Play off
Wales versus England
Saturday 22nd June, 2.30pm