WALES made a dream start to the World Rugby U20 Championship by stunning Australia 26-21 in Beziers.

The Welsh youngsters had made no secret of their tournament opener in southern France being a must-win encounter given that New Zealand are also in a devilishly tough Pool A.

And Geraint Lewis’ men did just that thanks to tries by Scarlets centre Ioan Nicholas and Dragons wing Joe Goodchild, excellent place kicking by full-back Cai Evans plus some determined defence in the face of huge pressure in the second half.

The win gives Wales a shot at the semi-finals even if they fail to stun the Baby Blacks, who hammered Japan in their opener, on Sunday.

The Welsh youngsters were hammered by their South African counterparts in a warm-up clash at Cardiff Arms Park but learnt their lessons to claim a southern hemisphere scalp with Dragons back row forward Taine Basham and lock Max Williams putting in big shifts up front.

Wales had the better of a nip and tuck first quarter to lead 6-3 thanks to a pair of penalties by Ospreys full-back Evans after Australia scrum-half Ryan Lonergan had opened the scoring from the tee.

However, the Junior Wallabies edged in front thanks to a super score after 24 minutes with wing James Ramm rising high to slap a cross-kick into the grateful hands of full-back Mack Hansen.

Wales, who had lost wing Rio Dyer to a shoulder injury early on with the Dragons speedster replaced by regional teammate Goodchild, responded well.

Impressive Dragon Basham went on the charge from a quick tap and then, with penalty advantage, Cardiff Blues fly-half Ben Jones put a grubber through for Scarlets centre Nicholas to finish acrobatically.

Evans added the extras and Wales led 13-8 after 32 minutes only to fail to claim the restart and allow Lonergan to reduce the deficit with a penalty.

But the Welsh youngsters had the final say of the half with another lovely score when powerful Scarlets outside centre Corey Baldwin made a super break and kept his composure to put Goodchild over for a try.

Evans converted for 20-11 at the break and then struck the vitally important first points of the second half with a booming penalty from just inside Welsh territory only for the Aussies to respond through Lonergan after an impressive scrum.

Lewis’ charges were under the pump at the set piece and the head coach responded by changing his props.

Welsh nerves were settled in the 59th minute when Evans bisected the posts to make it 26-14, a kick that was followed by some excellent defence in the 22 to snuff out a dangerous Australia move.

Despite a 12-point lead, the game was in the balance in the final quarter and Wales were relieved when wing Matt McTaggart was unable to gather the ball with the line at his mercy in the 70th minute.

It was constant Australian pressure but another chance went begging when the southern hemisphere side knocked on from a close-range lineout.

The clock wasn’t the Aussies’ friend but they were back in touch in the 77th minute when a break and lovely offload by Hansen set up replacement scrum-half Tate McDermott, who was awarded the try by the TMO despite the best efforts of Baldwin.

The conversion made it 26-21 but Wales held their nerve to notch a fine win and excellent start to the tournament.

Wales U20: Cai Evans (Ospreys), Rio Dyer (Dragons), Corey Baldwin (Scarlets), Ioan Nicholas (Scarlets), Ryan Conbeer (Scarlets), Ben Jones (Cardiff Blues), Dane Blacker (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Carre (Cardiff Blues), Iestyn Harris (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Henry (Ospreys), Rhys Davies (Bath), Max Williams (Dragons), Tommy Reffell (captain, Leicester), Dan Davis (Scarlets), Taine Basham (Dragons).

Replacements: Dewi Lake (Ospreys), Rhys Davies (Scarlets), Will Davies-King (Cardiff Blues), Lewis Ellis-Jones (Scarlets), Lennon Greggains (Dragons), Harri Morgan (Ospreys), Ben Thomas (Cardiff Blues), Joe Goodchild (Dragons)

Scorers: tries – I Nicholas, J Goodchild; conversions – C Evans (2); penalties – C Evans (4)