England clinch historic victory
June 23, 2013
England captain Jack Clifford lifts the IRB Junior World Championship silverware following his side's victory over Wales
© Getty Images
England Under-20s claimed the IRB Junior World Championship title for the first time with a 23-15 victory over Wales at the Stade de la Rabine in Vannes on Sunday.
Wales appeared on course for a famous triumph after two tries from winger Ashley Evans propelled them into a 15-3 lead at half-time. But England, beaten in three previous finals, rallied strongly after the break with a try from fullback Jack Nowell just before the hour and another from centre Sam Hill along with the boot of fly-half Henry Slade carrying them to victory in what was the first-ever all-northern hemisphere final.
England made the brighter start but Slade was unable to capitalise with his first penalty attempt sailing wide of the posts - his first miss of the knock-out stages. Instead it was Wales who opened the scoring with the latest piece of brilliance from fly-half Sam Davies, named the IRB Junior Player of the Year following the game, resulting in the opening try for Evans. Wales took the game deep into the England 22 before a perfectly-executed cross kick was claimed by Evans who simply had to dive over the line for the score.
Slade and Davies then exchanged penalties before Wales' rush defence laid the platform for their second try. The pressure led to England prop Alec Hepburn forcing a pass that was picked off by Evans who then raced downfield to double his tally.
England hit back with a strong run from winger Ben Howard carrying him close only for Wales fullback Jordan Williams to haul him down just short of the line. England raised their game again and appeared to register their first try just before half-time with lock Tom Price crossing after a sustained spell of pressure.
But referee Mike Fraser went to the Television Match Official after a report from his assistant and the try was disallowed with his fellow lock Dominic Barrow guilty of using his knee at a ruck in the build-up to the score. Barrow escaped a red card with the TMO deeming it a yellow card offence with the second row sent to the sin-bin as a result.
Wales failed to make their numerical advantage pay in the early stages of the second half with Davies failing to land a drop goal attempt inside the England 22. England then had a second try ruled out with replacement prop Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi adjudged to have made a double movement, but they finally got their try when Wales half backs Rhodri Williams and Davies failed to stop Nowell.
Slade added the conversion and the momentum began to swing in England's favour with their dominance soon rewarded with a second try. Williams was made to pay for a missed kick for touch with England working the ball downfield before Hill charged through the Welsh defence to dot the ball down.
Slade's conversion gave England the lead for the first time, 17-15, and they continued to pile the pressure on the Welsh in an attempt to ensure they weren't to be denied the title at the fourth attempt having lost to New Zealand in the title-decider in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
The Welsh continued to battle bravely in their bid to record a first ever win over England at Under-20s level, but were unable to truly stem the tide and two more penalties from Slade snuffed out their hopes of a late turnaround.
England coach Nick Walshe was understandably delighted with his side's maiden triumph. "I'm absolutely delighted. The lads certainly did it the hard way, but we showed real character in the second half and it's amazing to get the win. We put a strong emphasis on performance, and in the second 40 we delivered. These guys have worked so hard, not only over the past few weeks, but over the course of the season, and they deserve their win."
Captain Jack Clifford said: "I'm so proud of all of the guys. Massive credit to Wales - they were excellent in the first half and we struggled to be honest, but we came out after the break and starting to build some momentum. To get the win is a dream come true - the highlight of my career."
Slade added: "It's such an amazing feeling to win this trophy. It's the last time we'll play together as a group and we knew that we had one more performance left in us. We definitely did it the hard way, but we're just buzzing to actually get the win. Credit to the Welsh, they put up one hell of a fight - but we've done it, and I can't wait for it to sink in!"
Elsewhere on the final day of the championship, defending champions South Africa beat New Zealand 41-34 to secure third place. Click here for full details.
Wales Under-20s winger Ashley Evans touches down for a try © Getty Images
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