Baby Boks lose it late on
Junior Springboks ........................ 22 England......................................... 24
IT WAS tough from the very start for the Junior Springboks, and the fact that they led up to the 70th minute will make their World Rugby Under-20 Championship semi-final defeat to England even tougher to deal with.
But, to be fair, England called the shots right from the start and showed just why they made it into the playoffs unbeaten.
The Junior Boks, who relied on a kicking game in the early stages of the game, spent a great deal of the match defending, and when they did take control of the ball, they looked good. But England just looked better.
The defending champions’ halfback pairing of Alex Mitchell and Max Malins showed game-management beyond their years, while skipper and No 8 Zach Mercer exhibited superb skill and ran in two tries to help his side progress to the final.
In the South African team, Juarno Augustus’ physicality and grit gave England a tough time at the breakdowns, while he also contributed to the side with big tackles and, of course, two tries (he has scored in every game).
The defending champions got the opening try when captain Mercer finished off great interplay between the forwards and backs to score, and the Baby Boks answered with a try of their own when Augustus crossed the try-line after some enterprising play by Chean Roux’s team that started all the way back in their own 22 with a great break (and a top fend) by flyhalf Curwin Bosch to make it 7-7 at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia.
England got their second try when Malins broke through to send scrumhalf Mitchell over, and the pivot added a penalty to extend England’s lead to 17-7.
Augustus scored his sixth try of the tournament after numerous driving phases by the SA U20s. Bosch missed with his conversion (half-time 17-12).
The Baby Boks started to dominate the set-pieces in the third quarter, and after some impressive work by the forwards, took the lead for the first time when Ruben van Heerden forced his way over for a converted try (19-17).
With 10 minutes to go, a Bosch penalty extended the lead to 22-17. But Mercer shrugged off three defenders to score the five-pointer that secured England’s fifth consecutive final spot.
Junior Springboks: Tries: Juarno Augustus (2), Ruben van Heerden. Conversions: Bosch (2). Penalties: Bosch
England: Tries: Zach Mercer (2), Alex Mitchell. Conversions: Malins (3). Penalties: Max Malins