POOL A: NEW ZEALAND 67-0 JAPAN The first meeting between the nations in U20 Championship history went as expected with the defending champions showing off all their skills to run in 11 tries in Narbonne. The six-time champions were relentless from the outset with Will Tucker racing over with only 50 seconds on the clock and he was followed over the line by Leicester Faingaanuku, who grabbed a brace either side of All Blacks Sevens star Vilimoni Koroi’s effort to wrap up the bonus point inside 18 minutes. Bailyn Sullivan scored an impressive try as New Zealand continued to score at more than a point a minute, but Japan then managed to get a foothold in the match as the half-hour approached and the rain began to fall heavily. They were denied a try for offside and instead it was New Zealand who had the final say through captain Tom Christie who managed to ground the ball despite a desperate tackle by the Japanese to send his side in 38-0 at half-time. Scrum-half Xavier Roe and second-row John Akau’ola-Laula added two more tries within 10 minutes of the match resuming to bring up the half-century. Inevitably New Zealand’s intensity dropped off for a while and handling errors prevented them from scoring again until the hour mark when Jamie Spowart got in on the act. The winger, who had had a try disallowed in the first half, went on to score a hat-trick as New Zealand sent out a powerful message of intent to their rivals. New Zealand captain Tom Christie said: “We’re really happy with how we performed, it was an amazing game to have up first because Japan really challenged us. Maybe the score doesn’t reflect that but they competed really hard at the breakdown and their maul was hard to stop. We’ll go back to the drawing board
and have a look at the details and what we want to work on, and really focus on us.” Japan captain Hisanobu Okayama said: “Unfortunately we lost the game to New Zealand but we still have the games against Australia and Wales. We have got a lot of room to improve so we are going to work on that and move towards the next games. I think we managed to tackle one-on-one in a Japanese style quite well. It was the first time for me to play against New Zealand and playing against the team which is the best in the world is always going to be a challenge but I am glad that we can show Japanese rugby to the world.” POOL A: NEW ZEALAND 42-10 WALES New Zealand lost three players to the sin-bin but still dominated a tenacious Welsh side as they registered their second bonus-point win of the campaign at Stade de la Mediterranee in Béziers. Vilimoni Koroi and Tom Florence both took a 10-minute breathers as New Zealand led 25-10 at the break before Tanielu Tele’a saw yellow at the end of the second half. Despite their ill-discipline, New Zealand never looked like falling victim to an upset with scrum-half Xavier Roe expertly controlling play and keeping Wales pinned back in their own 22 for long periods. The Waikato man deservedly got his name on the scoresheet from a quickly-taken tap penalty, shortly after Wales had lost Lewis Ellis-Jones to the bin, with the rest of New Zealand’s tries coming from Billy Proctor, Bailyn Sullivan, captain Tom Christie and replacement tight-head Tevita Mafileo. Sullivan created the first for Proctor in the third minute with a powerful run involving two hand-offs and an offload before number eight Taine Basham got Wales back on level terms with a brilliant finish in the corner after Koroi had been sent to the sin-bin for sticking out a hand to stop a Welsh two-on-one.
Questionable decision-making and some needless penalties cost Wales the chance to press home their advantage and, after an exchange of penalties between Plummer and Cai Evans, Sullivan touched down after a neat offload from Tele’a. Koroi’s show-and-go and another offload from Sullivan set up Tom Christie for his second of the tournament with 29 minutes gone. Plummer added the extras and then booted a 48-metre penalty on the stroke of half-time as the rain started to pour down. By this stage, Florence’s involvement had been temporarily curtailed due to a dangerous tackle. Determined defensive sets from Wales meant that for all their dominance New Zealand only had a second Plummer penalty to show for their efforts - until the 64th minute when Mafileo charged down Ben Thomas’ attempted clearance and then scooped up the loose ball from the greasy surface to race home from 15 metres. New Zealand remained camped in Welsh territory and after several near-misses Roe darted over from close range. The game ended on a low note for New Zealand though when Tele’a became the third player to be sent to the sin-bin for a late tackle. New Zealand captain Tom Christie said: “What a game of rugby, we knew we were in for a battle. I’m really pleased with how my boys came up over that. The good thing about New Zealand rugby is the amazing depth, number one to 15 know we have people biting at our heels so we are really motivated to keep going and put those performances in.” Wales captain Tommy Reffell said: “The defensive errors really cost us. Everyone knows that against a team like New Zealand you can’t make errors like that because they’ll capitalise on them and punish you. Luckily we play a sport where you get a second chance to redeem yourself and all eyes will be on the Japan game now. It is a must-win match.”
POOL A: NEW ZEALAND 27-18 AUSTRALIA New Zealand continued their unbeaten record against Australia in the U20 Championship with a purposeful opening quarter which saw the defending champions accelerate out into a 17-3 lead in Perpignan. Fly-half Harry Plummer showed great strength to score their first try with number eight Devan Flanders having the crowd in raptures as he finished their second, intercepting and racing 70 metres to score with his fly-half rewarding his lung-busting effort by adding the conversion. Australia’s only points of the first quarter came from the boot of Isaac Lucas, however they didn’t panic and kept their composure. The Junior Wallabies’ reward arrived after 28 minutes as winger Jordan Petaia, who only arrived in France this week as an injury replacement, put a quick pop-pass to flanker Fraser McReight on the far left. Eight minutes later Australia’s pack dominated a five-metre scrum and were rewarded when referee Karl Dickson awarded them a penalty try and a yellow card to New Zealand’s tight-prop Tevita Mafile’o, leaving the match finely poised at 17-15 at the break. As they wrestled for supremacy both sides raised their physicality again in the early stages of the second half. Plummer and Lucas exchanged penalties before full-back Vilimoni Koroi opened up Australia’s defence with some electric footwork. Koroi, who has honed his skills on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, put a try on a plate for winger Jamie Spowart. Plummer’s accurate boot added the conversion and handed New Zealand a 27-18 lead. In the final 15 minutes the defending champions were kept contained by their local rivals and simply couldn’t find a way through for the bonus-point try that would have made them, rather than England, top seeds for the semi-finals. New Zealand captain Tom Christie said: “What a
game. They call international rugby a Test match for a reason and that match was a real test. Any time we get to play the Aussies it’s like just like playing your big brother, no-one wants to lose and no-one wants to give them an inch. That was the exact feeling out there.” Australia captain Tate McDermott said: “I can’t fault the boys’ efforts, we put our heart and soul into that match tonight. We put a show on and really had a crack at New Zealand, but they were just too good. We needed to capitalise on their little defensive errors, we lost the match tonight by not doing that. We need to keep working on our defence, we leaked a few tries in the wide channels. We’ll build on what we started tonight, and we will turn some heads in this competition.”
at the ruck while New Zealand fumbled a rare attacking opportunity.
SEMI-FINAL: NEW ZEALAND 7-16 FRANCE France booked their place in a first-ever World Rugby U20 Championship final in front of a packed-house in Perpignan.
New Zealand’s time on the ball remained limited while France pushed the tempo for the rest of the half. With half-time approaching Carbonel’s vision saw Matthis Lebel wide-open on the left, but the winger dropped a cross-field kick that nine times out of 10 he would have caught.
In the opening minutes the home side made their intentions to play at tempo abundantly clear when captain Arthur Coville took an early tap penalty. His ensuing box-kick went straight out but it set the tone. France looked to have created their first try after eight minutes when they went through nine phases before their talismanic number eight Jordan Joseph surged towards the line. Under considerable pressure Joseph got the offload away only to see it fumbled by his outside-centre Pierre Louis Barassi. The match remained scoreless for the rest of the first quarter, unusual for two sides who had scored early in their three previous matches, as France continued to showcase the trademark dynamism across their backline but found themselves giving away penalties
Six minutes later Les Bleuets turned down a kickable penalty and opted to go for the corner. Hooker Guillaume Marchand found his man at the lineout and the home side’s pack plugged away before second-row Killian Geraci was held-up. The five-metre scrum was played out to the sound of La Marseillaise ringing around the ground as France’s fans sensed a try. Joseph picked directly off the base and once again they came extremely close. Off another penalty infringement fly-half Louis Carbonel decided to settle proceedings and kicked a penalty to open the scoring.
After such a low-scoring first half, Sébastien Piqueronies’ side controlled the ball with ease at the start of the second. Lebel burst through the middle, looking to make up for his fumble, before a neat inside-ball was pounced on by centre Romain Ntamack. Carbonel added the conversion for a 10-0 advantage and Lebel’s game was cruelly cut short as he limped off the field. New Zealand coach Craig Philpott looked to find his side’s spark by making early changes, sending on scrum-half Jay Renton and centre Kaleb Trask, but the next points were France’s as Carbonel’s accurate boot rewarded his pack’s supremacy at the set
piece and extended their advantage to 13-0. Another monstrous scrum on the halfway line saw Carbonel step up again, but this time while his penalty had the distance, the direction was just off. New Zealand just couldn’t get their backs into the game with France’s forward pack enjoying the upper hand and when Renton gave away another penalty it was Ntamack’s turn to try his luck from distance, this time he had the direction but his kick dropped under the bar. It did, though, become a 16-point ball game when Carbonel slotted his third penalty. It took until the 69th-minute for New Zealand to find a way through the French defence, Trask’s rangy pass stretched the defensive line before quick ball from captain Tom Christie put Harry Plummer over. The fly-half converted his own try to cut the deficit with 10 minutes to play. The try galvanised New Zealand and they went nearly the length of the field with slick passing, but the move broke down when replacement hooker Ricky Jackson knocked on with the line in sight. New Zealand were growing in confidence by the second while France saw concerning late injuries for Ntamack and Carbonel. Despite that disruption they kept cool heads in the face of intense waves of pressure to spark wild celebrations at the final whistle. New Zealand captain Tom Christie said: “I’m immensely gutted at the result but I’m very far from being disappointed at my lads. My lads played with a lot of heart and a lot of pride. Credit to the French they’re an amazing outfit and they will punish you.” France front-row Daniel Brennan said: “The team put in such a good effort against South Africa, we said that were coming back today and we had a cracker of a game. It’s going to be amazing [the final], I’m really looking forward to it. All the boys are pumped and the mindset is there already.”
THIRD PLACE PLAY-OFF: SOUTH AFRICA 40-30 NEW ZEALAND A dominant second half from South Africa saw them score 26 unanswered points to claim a second successive bronze medal. After trailing 25-14 at half-time, South Africa got a grip of the third place play-off after the break and New Zealand’s only reply came in the 80th minute of the match. Both teams started with purpose and two of the four first-half tries arrived before five minutes had been played by the traditional rivals. Winger Tyrone Green pounced on a wayward pass and accelerated through the gears to score, before New Zealand instantly replied through scrum-half Jay Renton. Centre Harry Plummer added the conversion and a penalty which put New Zealand 10-7 ahead. A charge-down on Rewan Kruger resulted in New Zealand’s second try, scored by Plummer, and shortly after Junior Springboks’ coach Chean Roux changed his scrum-half. Roux was also forced to change his flyhalf and introduce Lubabalo Dobela due to an injury to David Coetzer. New Zealand also lost a half-back early in the match as scrum-half Renton was unable to shake off a knock and was replaced by Xavier Roe. Plummer’s 49-metre penalty extended New Zealand’s advantage before Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa produced a superb solo-score. The second-row broke effortlessly out of the tackle, fended off South Africa full-back Gianni Lombard and charged under the posts. Once again, Plummer was accurate off the tee and his conversion made it 25-14 after 40 minutes. South Africa, well-aware of the need to strike first after the interval, flew out of the blocks and never looked back, finishing a match stronger than they have begun it once again in this tournament.
The hard-carrying of the Junior Springboks’ forwards allowed Wandisile Simelane to release Green out wide and Lombard’s excellent touchline conversion cut New Zealand’s lead to four points. A deliberate knock-on by Bailyn Sullivan saw him sent to the sin-bin and in his absence South Africa turned up the heat with tries from Ruan Nortje and a lengthof-the-field effort finished off by Simelane to ensure that he finished tied as joint top scorer with Italy winger Giovanni D’Onofrio on six. Lombard’s accurate boot handed them a 33-25 advantage. The Junior Springboks’ hold on the match tightened as the full-time whistle approached, replacement prop Asenathi Ntlabakanye scoring with six minutes to go and the successful conversion took their tally of unanswered second-half points to 26. New Zealand winger Caleb Clarke had the final say after using his excellent footwork to profit from his flyhalf ’s cross-field kick, but it was too little, too late and South Africa came out on top, just as they had done five years ago when the sides met in a third place playoff on French soil. South Africa coach Chean Roux said: “It was an awesome comeback in the second half, and I am happy for the players because they worked very hard for this, so all credit to them. In saying that, I am still very disappointed that we were not in the final because that was our goal from the outset. It was good, though, to beat New Zealand to finish third.” New Zealand captain Tom Christie said: “I’m absolutely gutted with the result. I think that my team played the 80 as we should and get gave it a massive effort. South Africa came out physically and really brought the game to us which showed on the scoreboard at the end of the day.”
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