England and Wales book Under-20s title showdown
June 19, 2013
England's Anthony Watson looks to force an opening in the New Zealand defence © Getty Images
England and Wales will meet in the first all-northern hemisphere IRB Junior World Championship final on Sunday.
Wales booked their place in a first-ever final with a narrow 18-17 victory over defending champions South Africa earlier today and they were joined in the final by England following their 33-21 win against New Zealand this evening. The results ensure a new name will be written on the Championship trophy following this year's title-decider.
Wales fly-half Sam Davies held his nerve to slot the match-winning touchline conversion against the Junior Springboks in the first semi-final after winger Ashley Evans had pounced for a last gasp try. Wales were given little chance of beating a South African side boasting a bigger forward pack and a back three who have impressed throughout the tournament, but the Welsh had other ideas and gradually found their feet after a nervous start to the clash at the Stade de la Rabine in Vannes.
Both sides went close to opening the scoring before Davies finally broke the deadlock midway through the opening period with a penalty. South Africa's Handrè Pollard then missed a chance to level the scores before Davies notched his second just past the half hour mark. But South Africa would take control of the contest before the break with second row Irne Herbst claiming a lineout ball on the five-metre line and then powering over for a score that was converted by Pollard.
With fullback Cheslin Kolbe and winger Luther Obi looking dangerous on the break, South Africa missed a chance to go further ahead when Pollard failed with another penalty. Wales made them pay with a well-worked try, a flick pass from Sam Davies and cheeky offload from Jordan Williams resulting in a score for captain Ellis Jenkins.
South Africa's response was swift, scrum-half Stefan Ungerer taking a quick tap penalty and finding Pollard who fed the ball wide where replacement Kwagga Smith recovered from a desperate ankle tap to dot down his side's second try to make it 14-11. Pollard edged South Africa out to a six-point lead with another penalty five minutes from time but the Welsh refused to give up. Davies put a kick on a plate for Evans to collect and touch down in the right corner before adding the match-winning conversion to set the seal on a sensational win.
England then created their own piece of history by beating New Zealand for the first time at age grade level in the second semi-final and in doing so exact revenge for their three previous final defeats to the Baby Blacks.
Fly-half Henry Slade was the star of the show with an 18-point haul and he opening the scoring a penalty after just three minutes. But back came with New Zealand with hooker Epalahame Faiva notching the opening try of the game just a few minutes later. However, a dominant England side would wrestle back control of the contest with tries from flanker Matt Hankin and winger Anthony Watson before half-time with Slade converting both scores.
New Zealand fly-half Simon Hickey reduced the arrears shortly after the re-start with a penalty only to see his effort cancelled out by Slade soon after. A raft of replacements appeared to give New Zealand fresh impetus and a penalty from Jade Te Rure was followed by a try from centre Jason Emery just short of the hour mark. Te Rure added the conversion and the comeback was really on with his next penalty reducing England's lead to just two points with just under ten minutes remaining.
But England asserted themselves once more with replacement Tom Smallbone crossing for a score that was again converted by Slade who set the seal on his side's historic win with a further penalty in the closing moments of the game.
Wales' Hallam Amos exploits some space during his side's victory over South Africa © Getty Images
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