John Davidson reports from the AJ Bell Stadium on cooked Italians, plucky Japanese and an Argentine assault from day two of the World Rugby U20 Championship in Manchester
Australia 38-10 Italy
Australia were looking to get their U20 World Cup campaign off the ground after their shocker against Scotland. And they did, sort of, but were by no means completely convincing in this tough match against Italy. Don’t let the score-line fool you. The green and gold were down 10-7 in the first half after another mistake-prone performance. The lively Italians went ahead after Matteo Minozzi finished off a great break and then Australia pulled a try back through Simon Kennewell after sustained pressure.
In the second half the Aussies tied things up with a penalty, then went ahead with a bustling try from Lukhan Lealaiaulolo-Tui. But the pesky Azzurri would not lie down and kept coming. A scrappy try to Liam Jurd secured the victory. The scoreline in the final three minutes ballooned when the Antipodeans bagged two more tries, and vitally, a bonus point.
For Italy their scrum-half Charly Trussardi was a proper pest, in the manner that only a quality nine can be. Australia’s man-mountain Lealaiaulolo-Tui was a real handful for the Italian defence. His introduction on 46 minutes gave the green and gold some punch in the middle and help swing the game in their favour. Scorer Shambeckler Vui doesn’t just have a great name but a powerful fend and an eye for the try-line. His barnstorming five-pointer was the pick of the contest. Australia now face England in what promises to be a massive final pool match.
France 41-14 Japan
France needed to bounce back after they were beaten by Argentina in their tournament opener. And the French did just that against the Japanese, though they were made to work for their win. Japan started like a house on fire, opening the scoring after just seven minutes. Off the back of a scrum Tevita Tatafu put Ren Takano through a lovely hole to score. France woke up from their slumber and nailed a penalty. They then had a two-try blitz, hooker Peato Mauvaka forcing his way over from a maul and then scrum-half Baptiste Couilloud going 30-odd metres to touch down.
The French went into half-time 17-7 ahead and then quickly extended their lead after the break, talented centre Damain Penaud busting straight through the middle. Japan pulled a try back through the excellent Tatafu, but it was one-way traffic. Les Bleus responded seconds after the re-start with Antoine Dupont finishing off a series of damaging offloads. France added a fifth, sixth and seventh try in the final 10 minutes to winger Alexandre Nicoue, Dupont’s second and substitute Romain Buros, as the Japanese splintered.
Centre Penaud is certainly one to watch, with his mixture of size, speed and strength. The Clermont Auvergne back is key to France’s chances in the rest of this tournament, with South Africa up next. Another to remember is No 8 Tatafu. Japan’s bulky head-geared forward not only has a big frame but soft hands and the ability to create for his teammates, making him a valuable commodity at the back of the scrum.
Argentina 19-13 South Africa
It was gritty, it was tense and it was brutal. Argentina edged South Africa by six points, keeping their brilliant tournament going after they knocked off France. This wasn’t the prettiest of games – a low-scoring contest marked by tough defence and forward battles – but it was a dramatic contest of traditional rugby. Two teams down in the trenches for 80 minutes.
The Argentines edged it with two yellow cards to South Africa proving crucial. The Pumitas made the Boks pay for their ill-discipline in the tightest of encounters. This match see-sawed from end to end, the South Africans starting the game with an early penalty goal. Argentina got one back, then scored another and tried for a drop goal, which missed, right before half-time. A card to South Africa nine James Hall helped them along. Six seconds before the break, Franco Marino offloaded in the tackle to put winger Tomas Malanos in for a try. Marino was simply outstanding, a second-rower with a high work-rate and a great engine.
The Junior Boks threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Argies in the final quarter but the South Americans’ defence held firm. South Africa cut the score to 19-13 in the 63rd minute with a bulldozing try from Franco van den Berg, but a second yellow card five minutes later killed their chances. It was another fantastic performance from the Pumitas and another great upset in this Championship, along with Ireland pipping New Zealand. Let them continue.