How New Zealand’s Baby Blacks secured a record sixth Junior World Cup title
New Zealand beat England in emphatic style to become World Rugby U20 champions for an historic sixth time.
The Baby Blacks racked up ten tries in their 64-17 demolition of last year’s winners, who failed to make any mark in the final at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi.
New Zealand were far superior in a clinical attack, whereas handling errors and defensive frailties hampered any opportunities for England.
Dalton Papali’i was first to cross for the Baby Blacks, winning a scrum against the head on England’s 22m line before diving over from close range.
England’s defence was lacking in strength – something we’ve been so accustomed to seeing in the competition – and that allowed New Zealand to break through the middle and out wide.
Prop Pouri Rakete-Stones capitalised on a break on halfway, touching down only a couple of phases later. In contrast, scoring opportunities for England were rare and when fly-half Max Malins missed a penalty after 12 minutes, things were looking bleak for the defending champions.
Full-back Will Jordan and fly-half Stephen Perofeta continued to open up England’s defence and kept the scoreboard rolling. Further tries from Asafo Aumua (two), Isaia Walker-Leawere and captain Luke Jacobson gave the five-time winners a commanding lead.
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A consolatory first-half try from Ben Earl offered England a little hope. A powerful Malins pass on the advantage line drew out three New Zealand defenders to give Earl an easy run-in, reducing the deficit somewhat to 40-7 at the break.
England rang the changes in the early stages of the second half but New Zealand began as relentlessly as they had finished the first, Josh McKay racing over in the corner to increase the Kiwis’ lead.
When England finally got some possession and began to attack in New Zealand’s half, a quickly tapped penalty by replacement Alex Mitchell allowed him to dive over for their second try, but a missed conversion from Malins underlined his out-of-sorts display.
New Zealand’s hooker Aumua has been one of the standout players of the campaign and fittingly brought up his side’s half century with another finely worked try from short range. It was his third and he was subsequently brought off to a standing ovation.
Tom Christie and Jacobson followed for New Zealand’s ninth and tenth tries of the game. England’s tank was running on empty, but not before Josh Bayliss touched down in the corner to end the campaign on a relative positive.
England will be disappointed not have competed in the first half and, as France found out in their semi-final, chasing the game against New Zealand is no easy task.
New Zealand were undoubtedly the best side in the competition and surely a number of these Baby Blacks will be in contention for the All Blacks come the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
World Rugby U20 Championships final standings:
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- Samoa (relegated to U20 Trophy)