John Davidson reports from the Manchester City Academy Stadium on slain Dragons, entertaining Ireland and phenomenal England on day four of the World Rugby Under-20 Championship.
Ireland 37-7 Argentina
Ireland booked their spot in the final of the Under-20 Championship for the first time with a one-sided victory over Argentina. This was a ruthless performance from the Irish, one of smarts and guile that showed the ability to play all different styles. Ireland scored three tries in the first half and then nailed three penalties off the boot of Johnny McPhillips in the second to close out the match. It was excellent game management from an Irish team that continues to surprise and delight in this tournament. They even topped off the win with an intercept try by Shane Daly when the clock was in red time.
This win was built around solid defence and strong ball-running. Full-back Jacob Stockdale claimed two tries and was a handful with his height and ability to break tackles. Fly-half McPhillips controlled the game perfectly but the star for men in green was their outstanding No 8 Max Deegan, a man mountain who has the pace of Simon Zebo to boot. His intercept try, where he outpaced Argentina’s full-back Bautista Delguy over 70 metres, was a thing of beauty. Cheered on by some boisterous support, Ireland are headed to the final against England full of confidence. It was a disappointing afternoon for Argentina, who were unbeaten until this point, but they were simply outplayed at every point. They move on to the third place playoff and a meeting with South Africa.
England 39-17 South Africa
The hosts earned their place in the decider with a one-sided demolition of South Africa. England started on fire and never looked like losing from the second minute, when hard-running centre Joe Marchant busted through the defence to offload to Max Green to score. Four minutes later England were in again, this time thanks to Huw Taylor, and things got worse for the Junior Boks with a yellow card to Jeremy Ward for tackling Max Malins in the air. England were dominant in the scrum and at the breakdown, and added two more tries in the first half for a 31-3 lead.
A shell-shocked South Africa improved in the second half, and were helped by a yellow card to Will Evans for a tip tackle, but they were always up against it chasing the game. The Junior Boks scored twice in three minutes to give themselves some hope, one try completely against the run of play, but England always looked comfortable.
The hosts finished off the South Africans with a try in the 72nd minute, Max Wright completing a nice flowing move. England will be a handful for Ireland in the final with the likes of Marchant and full-back Malins in great form. Fly-half Harry Mallinder is a special talent while flanker George Nott has been fantastic at the back of the scrum and won the Man of the Match award in the semi-final because of his excellent breakdown work and marshalling of England’s miserly defence. England have plenty of points in them and they give few away, so the decider is shaping up to be a colossal encounter.
New Zealand 71-12 Wales
Annihilation. New Zealand missed out on the semi-finals for the first time ever and they took their wrath out here on unfortunate Wales. The Welsh had battered and bruised the Kiwis in their pool encounter, frustrating them with some outstanding defence, but this was a completely different story. The Baby Blacks ran riot, perhaps spurred on by the embarrassment of being eliminated so early, and scored 11 tries. It was an utter demolition of their opponents.
It took less than a minute for Jonah Lowe to cross after a simple fend and New Zealand didn’t stop scoring. All manner of tries flowed – from charge-downs, kicks, individual brilliance, pick-and-drives and backline moves – as the Welsh defence shattered. Wales managed two tries of their own but they were outclassed by a pumped up Kiwi side.
Full-back Shaun Stevenson shone with a two-try haul while winger Caleb Makene showed he knew the way to the try-line with a hat-trick. The directness of their running and the accuracy of their offloads was just too much for Wales to handle. The Baby Blacks had a point to prove after disappointing in this tournament, and they did just that. They move on to a fifth place showdown with trans-Tasman rivals Australia and Wales will take on local foes Scotland for seventh place, after the Scots lost 35-19 to the young Wallabies.