WALES suffered a 41-34 defeat to New Zealand in their World Rugby U20 Championship opener but showed spirit to bag a pair of bonus points from an 11-try cracker.

The Baby Blacks took the spoils after a high-scoring encounter at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town but Richard Whiffin’s side didn’t leave empty-handed.

They scored five tries through Louie Hennessey (2), Huw Anderson, Steffan Emanuel and Macs Page.

That could be crucial for the placings in the tournament.

If they beat Spain with a bonus point on Thursday then they should head into the finale against France knowing that they won’t be in the ninth to 12th play-offs, with the country that finishes bottom suffering relegation.

The French, who thumped Wales 45-12 in Cardiff in the Six Nations, eased to a 49-12 win against the Spanish.

The Welsh youngsters trailed 24-13 at half-time and were a man down with second row Osian Thomas in the sin bin and two quick fire tries early in the second half saw New Zealand leap to a 36-13 lead with a heavy defeat looming.

Despite a yellow card to talisman Morgan Morse, Wales pulled themselves back into the game magnificently and had New Zealand on the ropes in the dying stages when hunting an unlikely draw.

FINISH: Xavi Taele dives over for New Zealand U20s against WalesFINISH: Xavi Taele dives over for New Zealand U20s against Wales (Image: Thinus Maritz/World Rugby)

New Zealand scrum-half Dylan Pledger opened the scoring when he intercepted counterpart Ieuan Davies’ pass and went over in the corner.

Wales responded when Dragons full-back Anderson finished smartly in the corner, sidestepping and then spinning out of tackles.

The Kiwis scored a penalty try thanks to a driving maul, with Thomas yellow-carded, and then Xavi Taele put them in command.

The impressive Hennessey went over to finish the half only for New Zealand to power away early in the second-half thanks to Taele’s second and a powerful finish by flanker Tai Cribb.

Wales then showed their resilience.

Bath prospect Hennessey exploded onto a Morse pass to leave full-back Sam Coles clutching thin air to score by the uprights. Harri Wilde’s conversion brought the score to 36-20 with 24 minutes remaining.

The Kiwis, always a threat with ball in hand then appeared to have sealed the game when Xavier Tito-Harris finished with a flourish to make it 41-20.

However, Wales refused to cave in and with an injection from the bench, finished the stronger of the two sides.

Replacement centre Emanuel collected a cheeky chip from Lucca Setaro to score by the posts with just his second touch in U20 international rugby. Harri Ford’s conversion brought the score to 41-27 and Wales sensed they had the Kiwis flagging.

Wales continued to hammer away and eventually Macs Page injected himself into a move close to the line and surged over. Ford’s conversion brought Wales to within a score.

In a final frantic two minutes, New Zealand managed to cling on and boot the ball to touch, having been pushed to their limits by Wales.

A courageous effort by Wales who never gave up will however give the camp plenty to enthuse over as they now prepare for Spain.

Hennessey scored two tries in an eye catching performance while the back row of Morse, captain Ryan Woodman and Lucas de la Rua gave as good as they got against their Kiwi counterparts.

Prop Josh Morse surged into the New Zealand defence with relish while comrades Jonny Green and Isaac Young refused to take a backward step in the heat of the battle.

Whiffin is likely to tinker with the line-up for Thursday’s fixture against Spain in the same venue (kick-off 1pm).

Wales U20: Huw Anderson (Dragons); Harry Rees-Weldon (Dragons), Louie Hennessey (Bath), Macs Page (Scarlets), Aidan Boshoff (Bristol Bears); Harri Wilde (Cardiff), Ieuan Davies (Bath); Josh Morse (Scarlets), Isaac Young (Scarlets), Sam Scott (Bristol Bears), Jonny Green (Harlequins), Osian Thomas (Leicester Tigers), Ryan Woodman (Dragons – captain), Lucas de la Rua (Cardiff), Morgan Morse (Ospreys).

Replacement: Harry Thomas (Scarlets), Jordan Morris (Dragons), Kian Hire (Ospreys), Nick Thomas (Dragons), Harry Beddall (Leicester Tigers), Lucca Setaro (Scarlets), Harri Ford (Dragons), Steffan Emanuel (Cardiff Rugby).