WALES finished the group stages of the World Rugby U20 Championship with victory against Japan, but they made hard work, writes Chris Kirwan.

Tries by scrum-half Harri Morgan and wing Dewi Cross plus eight points from the boot of full-back Cai Evans secured an 18-17 success.

Japan scored three tries to Wales’ two but were left to rue misses from the tee.

Geraint Lewis’ side started the day with a slim chance of sneaking into the semi-finals as the best runner-up thanks to their win against Australia on opening night.

Even if they had got the bonus point that they needed then it would not have been enough as Italy enjoyed a big win against Argentine, leaving Wales to face the fifth to eighth placing play-offs.

Wales went chasing tries from the off, kicking successive penalties to the corner only to be met by determined Japanese resistance.

It was a frustrating start for the Welsh youngsters with an error-strewn opening that contrasted starkly to their effort against the Aussies.

And they were stunned in the 12th minute when a powerful carry down the left by Siosaia Fifita was followed by shoddy defending down the right to allow Halatoa Vailea to cross for a 5-0 lead.

Thankfully Wales responded swiftly with a lovely move from a scrum inside their half that ended in a try for Harri Morgan after the Ospreys scrum-half was put in space by centre Ioan Nicholas and wing Dewi Cross.

Full-back Cai Evans converted for 7-5 but Japan were back in front 10-7 thanks to their combination of a handful of strong runners and a super driving lineout, which enabled hooker Miyu Arai to go over.

Wales wisely shelved thoughts of the bonus for a while to move in front approaching the break thanks to a pair of Evans penalties.

It was 13-10 at half-time and the frustration continued after the resumption with Lewis’ youngsters playing far, far too loosely.

Evans missed a routine penalty but on 52 minutes Wales had some breathing space when centre Corey Baldwin made a lovely midfield break to give Cross a run-in out wide for 18-10

Any hopes that the try would lead to the European side stretching away were dashed.

Instead it was Japan that did much of the pressing entering the final quarter and Wales were relieved when wing Vailea lost control of the ball when diving for the line.

Lewis’ side could not get out of their half or get their hands on the ball and were sweating on their win when Fifita powered over in the 76th minute with Yuto Mori’s conversion making it 18-17.

Wales hung on but know that they must do better next week.

Wales U20: Cai Evans (Ospreys), Corey Baldwin (Scarlets), Ioan Nicholas (Scarlets), Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler (Ospreys), Dewi Cross (Ospreys), Ben Jones (Cardiff Blues), Harri Morgan (Ospreys), Rhys Davies (Scarlets), Dewi Lake (Ospreys), Chris Coleman (Dragons), Lewis Ellis-Jones (Scarlets), Jack Pope (Bridgend), Tommy Reffell (capt, Leicester), Lennon Greggains (Dragons), Taine Basham (Dragons),

Reps: Rhys Carre (Cardiff Blues), Iestyn Harris (Cardiff Blues), Rhys Henry (Ospreys), Max Williams (Dragons), Ben Fry (Dragons), Dane Blacker (Cardiff Blues), Ben Thomas (Cardiff Blues), Max Llewellyn (Cardiff Blues)

Scorers: tries – H Morgan, D Cross; conversion – C Evans; penalties – C Evans (2)