26 March 2021 – Colliers Park, Wrexham

Cymru U21 1-2 Republic of Ireland U21

This friendly international marked the start of a new era for both nations with a number of players making their debut for their country at this level ahead of the EURO qualifiers.

The first U21 meeting between the two countries began with a strong wind that pushed both teams to play the ball on the pristine surface in the opening exchanges, with Billy Sass-Davies enjoying plenty of the ball at the back for Cymru early on. With the in-form Plymouth Argyle striker Luke Jephcott leading from the front, there was an obvious outlet for Paul Bodin's side in attack.

Cymru had the wind in their favour in the opening half, and the difficulty of controlling the ball in the conditions were clear when Morgan Boyes' early cross-field ball to Niall Huggins drifted out of reach of the Leeds United youngster. However, the visitors quickly settled into the game and began to enjoy longer periods of possession even though they failed to test goalkeeper Lewis Webb. Joe Adams opened the scoring for Cymru on 12 minutes as he capitalised on some great work from Huggins to produce a fine finish past Brian Mahar into the corner of the net.

Substitute goalkeeper Nathan Sheppard was called into action on 57 minutes to save from Ireland captain Lee O'Connor from close range following a rare lapse in concentration from the Cymru defence. Both teams made an expected string of substitutions in the final 20 minutes, and on 73 minutes Ryan Stirk had a great opportunity to double the advantage for Cymru but failed to hit the target. It would prove to be a costly miss, as just three minutes later, Jim Crawford's side levelled as Jonathan Afolabi made no mistake from a cross from the right.

Within a minute Ireland were ahead following a defensive mix-up between Boyes and Shepperd to complete a hugely frustrating period in the game for Cymru as the score was completely turned around against the run of play. The two goals certainly altered the dynamic of the match, and Afolabi came close to adding a third goal for the visitors on the 80 minute mark. Rubin Colwill came off the bench for his U21 debut and offered a different attacking option for Cymru on the left, but Ireland held on despite a late period of pressure to claim the win.

Cymru U21 XI: 1. Lewis Webb (12. Nathan Shepperd 46'), 2. Fin Stevens, 5. Billy Sass-Davies, 6. Morgan Boyes, 3. Eddy Jones, 4. Ryan Stirk, 8. Terry Taylor (c) (19. Sam Bowen 72'), 7. Niall Huggins, 11. Joe Adams (15. Rubin Colwill 80'), 10. Siôn Spence (17. Sam Pearson 60'), 9. Luke Jephcott (16. Christian Norton 60').

Subs: 13. Jack Vale, 14. Rhys Hughes, 18. Lewis Collins, 20. Owen Beck, 22. Ben Margetson.

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