WALES have set up a shot at the semi-finals of the World Rugby U20 Championships after beating Spain 31-10 in a bruising encounter.

The Welsh youngsters avoided a banana skin when they ran in four tries on their way to victory in Cape Town.

Head coach Richard Whiffin rang the changes after claiming a pair of bonus points in the opening round defeat to New Zealand and those with a starting opportunity got the job done.

Wales, captained again by exciting Dragons prospect Ryan Woodman, had to wear down the spirited Spanish at Athlone Stadium but eventually took the spoils thanks to tries by wing Kodi Stone, centre Elijah Evans, loosehead Ioan Emanuel and replacement scrum-half Ieuan Davies.

It means they head into their group stage finale against powerhouses France on Tuesday with a shot at making the last four of the competition.

Seven points from two fixtures also puts them in good shape to avoid the ninth to 12th place play-offs, with the team that finishes bottom suffering relegation to next year's World Rugby U20 Trophy.

POWER: Wales drive forward against Spain at the World Rugby U20 ChampionshipsPOWER: Wales drive forward against Spain at the World Rugby U20 Championships (Image: Thinus Maritz/World Rugby)

Wales led just 24-10 at half-time, enjoying a flying start and a strong finish.

Dragons fly-half Harri Ford was quickly out of the blocks to put them on the front foot for Stone’s try after just 48 seconds, the playmaker stepping and jinking to just outside the 22 before centre Steff Emanuel put in a grubber kick that deceived the Spanish defence.

Ford made it 7-0 but the minnows didn’t crumble and put the pressure on for South African referee Aimee Barrett-Theronto, rather bizarrely given there were just four minutes on the clock, show Dragons number eight Owen Conquer yellow for offside.

Gonzalo Otamendi slotted the penalty but Ford responded and then added a conversion after a try that came from some switched-on play by a Rodney Parade teammate.

Lock Nick Thomas spotted that the ball had come out from a ruck in the 22 and snaffled possession that led to centre Evans crossing after a dummy.

Ford made it 17-3 but Spain responded with a slick try through lock Pablo Guirao despite being down to 14 men because of scrum-half Nicolas Infer’s yellow card for a high tackle.

It should have been 17-10 at the break but the Spanish made a clanger in the 40th minute, trying to kill the clock only to have to boot the ball long due to clock mismanagement.

An offside penalty was kicked to the corner for prop Ioan Emanuel to score from a powerful drive, with Ford converting from the touchline.

CHARGE: Harry Thomas carries hard for Wales U20s against SpainCHARGE: Harry Thomas carries hard for Wales U20s against Spain (Image: Photo by Thinus Maritz/World Rugby)

Wales bossed territory and possession at the start of the second half but, with Spain defending ferociously, the fourth try proved elusive.

Dragons and Ebbw Vale winger Harry Rees-Weldon nearly profited from another slip after a Ford grubber but was just beaten to the loose ball by a Spanish hand.

Stone was over after 50 minutes but was denied by a tight call for a forward pass.

Wales' accuracy was letting them down, albeit against seriously committed and physical opponents, who were racking up the penalties.

With Dragons loosehead Jordan Morris among the replacements making bench impact, Whiffin’s side kept the pressure on as the hour approached.

However, there was more frustration when a series of close-range charges ended with Conquer, fresh from a breakthrough season at Ebbw Vale, held up over the line.

But the fourth came from replacement scrum-half Ieuan Davies right on the hour after a stunning break by Ford, a Gwent youngster back with the Dragons academy after a spell up north with RGC.

He burst through midfield and produced a one-handed offload to give his half-back partner a clear run to the posts.

It was Ford’s last act with centre Emanuel converting; at 31-10 the job was done but Wales wanted more tries and points.

Yet it was Spain that were next to go close with flanker Nicolas Moleti just unable to gather after a neat kick in the 22.

Wales escaped and went hunting a fifth only to be repelled by yet more admirable defence from their European opponents.

With some tired bodies on a heavy pitch, chances went begging and there were no more scores.

It was job done but Wales need to go up through the gears, starting with the mouth-watering clash with the French at the same venue on Tuesday (kick-off 3.30pm).

Wales U20: Matty Young (Cardiff Rugby), Harry Rees-Weldon (Dragons RFC), Elijah Evans (Cardiff Rugby), Steff Emanuel (Cardiff Rugby), Kodi Stone (Cardiff Rugby); Harri Ford (Dragons RFC), Rhodri Lewis (Scarlets); Ioan Emanuel (Bath Rugby), Harry Thomas (Scarlets), Kian Hire (Ospreys), Jonny Green (Harlequins), Nick Thomas (Dragons), Ryan Woodman (Dragons – captain), Morgan Morse (Ospreys), Owen Conquer (Dragons RFC).

Replacements: Isaac Young (Scarlets), Jordan Morris (Dragons RFC), Sam Scott (Bristol Bears), Osian Thomas (Leicester Tigers), Will Austin (Sale Sharks), Ieuan Davies (Bath Rugby), Harri Wilde (Cardiff Rugby), Louie Hennessey (Bath Rugby).

Scorers: tries – Stone, E Evans, I Emanuel, I Davies; conversions – Ford (3), S Emanuel; penalty – Ford.