Wales U18s returned to competitive European 7s for the first time since 2019, and immediately won a return to next year’s U18 Championship by winning the European Trophy in Zabki.
Wales finished fourth in their last appearance in the European U18s Championship in 2019, but after a series of “no-shows” they were relegated to the second level Trophy where, this year. seven teams were competing for just one place at the top table.
The tournament was played as a single seven-team pool over the weekend of 22/23rd July, with no final or other playoff games, and Wales’s campaign got off to a bad start when they lost their opening game to one of their major rivals – Portugal – whose scores either side of halftime saw them open a 26-10 lead which the Welsh were unable to claw back, finishing two points short.
Portugal had narrowly lost the tournament’s opening fixture to Turkey, and it was the Turks who were now setting the pace. The ended Day One the only unbeaten team, with Portugal and Wales close behind with those single losses each.
However, after their first game slip-up Wales were now ripping through their opponents. A 42-0 win against Sweden on Day One was followed by 33-12 against a useful Lithuanian team. Then on Day Two Hungary were dismissed 41-5, before beating Romania 71-0 – equalling France’s European record for the margin of victory in an U18s sevens.
Turkey were still winning, but were failing to post the sort of scores that Wales – and to a lesser extent Portugal – were recording. So when the final round of games came, Turkey had a +98 point difference, Portugal were on +129 and Wales +161.
Wales therefore had to not only beat the, up to this point, unbeaten Turkey but also had to hope that Portugal did beat Hungary in their final game by 32 more points than they beat the Turks.
Basically, Wales had to not only win but win well against their strongest opponents of the weekend.
And in a thrilling performance Wales did it. They never let up against Turkey, inflicting on Turkey their worst defeat since their very first U18 match. That 36-0 win also set Portugal a near impossible 68-point target against Hungary. When the Hungarians scored early on, Portuguese slim hopes were dashed. They went on to win 47-10 but a lack of celebrations at the end showed that silver medals would do little to assuage their disappointment.
Meanwhile, Wales picked up the Trophy that sees them return to the top, where on this performance they should stay. As long as they keep turning up.
Portugal 5-12 Turkey; Hungary 7-24 Lithuania; Romania 0-29 Sweden; Wales 22-26 Portugal; Lithuania 10-17 Turkey; Hungary 40-10 Romania; Sweden 0-42 Wales; Lithuania 5-32 Portugal; Turkey 38-0 Romania; Romania 0-66 Portugal; Lithuania 12-33 Wales; Sweden 26-24 Hungary; Turkey 25-10 Sweden; Wales 41-5 Hungary; Romania 7-34 Lithuania; Portugal 39-0 Sweden; Hungary 5-36 Turkey; Wales 71-0 Romania; Sweden 5-17 Lithuania; Turkey 0-36 Wales; Portugal 47-10 Hungary