Baby Boks steal draw; Italy shock Ireland
JUNIOR WORLD CUP ROUND ONE WRAP: A last gasp conversion from flyhalf Curwin Bosch secured a 23-all draw for South African against a fired-up France.
However, the big upset of the opening day of the tournament belonged to Italy, who beat Ireland 22-21 to take their first win at the World Rugby Under-20 championship since 2014.
Defending champions England beat Samoa 74-17 in Pool A, while New Zealand beat Scotland 42-20 in Pool B.
Italy coach Alessandro Troncon said it was "hard to believe" that his team had won.
"Maybe we didn't play our best rugby in the second half, but we kept believing in ourselves and scored a great try near the end," Troncon said.
"For us, it is very important to win the first match. It gives us a lot of confidence going forward."
All the Round One reports!
England 74-17 Samoa
England got their championship defence off to a winning start with a comprehensive 74-17 victory over Samoa at Avchala Stadium, Tbilisi.
England led 43-3 at half-time having scored seven tries in an impressive first period.
Ali Crossdale, Zach Mercer (two), Max Malins, Alex Mitchell, Dominic Morris and Gabriel Ibitoye all touched down in the first half.
Further tries from Marcus Street, Crossdale, Ciaran Knight took the score to 60-3, but Samoa got their first try of the game through Losi Filipo.
Morris and Ibitoye crossed in quick succession, while Filipo also had a second in the final action of the game.
The game also marked U20 debuts for forward Dino Lamb and Crossdale as England look to continue their proud record in the tournament.
"We came up against a very passionate team who were very physical so I'm pleased with how we performed," England captain Zach Mercer said.
"I really wanted us to play with a smile and enjoy it and I think we did that. We'll enjoy the win and then focus on our next game against Wales."
England head coach Ian Vass said: "I thought we handled the first half very well and didn't give Samoa much to go on and controlled set piece as well as field position. Overall, it was a strong performance and generally a good start but we have some things to work on, which is what you want from an opening game.
"We'll hopefully come out a little bit tidier and more organised in certain areas which will be beneficial to us when we play Wales."
Tries:Crossdale 2, Mercer 2, Malins, Mitchell, Morris 2, Ibitoye 2, Street, Knight
Cons: Malins 4, Umaga 3
Cons: Paisami 2
New Zealand 42-20 Scotland
New Zealand overcame a slow start to beat Scotland 42-20 in their opening game in Georgia on Wednesday.
Drizzle affected the handling skills of both sides, but New Zealand made the most of a strong showing through the middle stages of the game to secure their winning advantage.
Wing Lotima Fainga'anuku used his power and speed to score a hat-trick of tries - the first two minutes into the game and the third on full-time.
They battled with their line-out control but were powerful in the scrum.
However, coach Craig Philpott would have been disappointed with the lack of control at re-starts where several times New Zealand failed to secure ball kicked to them.
Captain Luke Jacobson said the side were pleased to come out with a bonus point win but their discipline had let them down and they had conceded too many penalties.
They would also need to do some work on their defence of the line-out drive before their next game, on Sunday against Italy.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Aumua, Leger, Papali'i, Fainga'anuku 3
Cons: Falcon 3
Pens: Falcon 2
Tries: Graham, Renwick, Henderson
South Africa 23-23 France
Junior Springboks coach Chean Roux praised his team's tremendous character to secure the draw against France with a converted try in the dying seconds of their opening match at the Avchala Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia.
A try in the final minute by Junior Springbok No.8 Juarno Augustus and a successful conversion by flyhalf Curwin Bosch saw the teams finish the clash tied at 23-all.
"It was nerve-wrecking, but I had confidence that we could score in the end," said Roux.
"I knew that if we get ball possession late in the second half we would convert it into points, just as we did in the first half, because we had very little possession in the second half.
"The players showed tremendous character and that is fantastic in a World Championship."
Roux singled out the team's conditioning as one of the main positives in the match and said they would address the areas of their game that needed to improve in the next few days.
"The positives were that similarly to some of the warm-up games, we ended on a high note, so I think our superior conditioning pulled us through in the end," said Roux.
"There will always be negatives if one doesn't win a match. But I will have a look at the video to see what the negatives are and we will work on that."
Augustus opened up the scoring in the second minute with a pick-and-go and the successful conversion and a subsequent penalty goal by Bosch pushed the team 10-0 up on the scoreboard.
French fullback Romain Buros closed the gap to five points with a charge-down try in the eighth minute.
Roux's team was dealt a double blow soon after as wing Wandisile Simelane was sin-binned for tripping, and nine minutes later prop Gerhard Steenekamp also received a yellow card for infringing at a breakdown.
The opposition capitalised on this as hooker Florian Dufour crossed the chalk in the 28th minute to push his team into a 12-10 lead.
The Baby Boks, however, sustained the pressure applied by France well for the rest of the half and managed to maintain the two-point deficit going into the break.
France struck first in the second half with a try by Baptiste Couilloud, while flyhalf Romain Ntamack slotted over back-to-back drop-goals, while Bosch slotted over two penalty goals for South Africa to trail 23-16 early in the fourth quarter.
The Junior Boks continued to fight until the final minute as they retained possession and applied pressure.
A yellow card for France at the death, however, saw them opt for a line-out and this patience paid off with a try for Augustus, which Bosch converted for the draw.
For South Africa:
Tries: Augustus 2
Cons: Bosch 2
Pens: Bosch 3
Tries: Buros, Couilloud, Dufour
DGs: Ntamack 2
Ireland 21-22 Italy
Italy won their first pool match for three years as they avenged a one-point loss to Ireland in the Six Nations to win by a similarly tight margin in the most dramatic of circumstances.
The Azzurrini have not won at this stage of the U20 Championship since upsetting Argentina in 2014, but tries from prop Danilo Fischetti and Jacopo Bianchi put them in command at 15-3 ahead at half-time.
However, Ireland came out a different side after the break and a quickfire double from left wing Calvin Nash looked like setting them on the road to a hard-fought victory until full-back Massimo Cioffi converted his own try to hand the Azzurrini the narrowest of leads with three minutes left.
Ireland still had a chance to break Italian hearts, but Ciaran Frawley's penalty attempt sailed just wide with the clock in the red.
With Antonio Rizzi pulling the strings at flyhalf, Italy dominated the first half and were well worth their 12-point lead. While their first try by loose-head prop Fischetti was all to do with brawn, the second, created by flyhalf Antonio Rizzi's delicate chip over the top, was a thing of beauty. Cioffi gathered the ball cleanly and offloaded to flanker Bianchi who hardly broke stride on his way to the line.
Conor Dean finally got Ireland on the board when he slotted a 27th-minute penalty but Rizzi cancelled that out with a 35-metre drop-goal.
Nash's two tries and a conversion from Dean pulled Ireland level before two penalties from the flyhalf eased them in front.
Italy showed great composure, though, to produce one last sustained attack. Centre Marco Zanon used his pace to get on the outside of Dean and link up with Cioffi, who had two grabs of the ball before getting it under control and dotting down. The full-back's touchline conversion looked to be drifting wide of the upright but, at the very last minute, it wobbled back on course to hand the Italians the initiative.
The Azzurrini attempted to wind the clock down with a series of pick-and-goes but Bianchi was penalised for holding on, on his own 10-metre line, handing Frawley a last-gasp opportunity, which he narrowly failed to take.
While Ireland, last year's beaten finalists, went in the game missing several key players through injury, nobody can take anything away from what was a wonderful performance by Italy.
Tries: Nash 2
Pens: Dean 2, Frawley
Tries: Cioffi, Fischetti, Bianchi
Cons: Cioffi, Rizzi
Argentina 37-26 Georgia
Classy scrumhalf Matias Sauze scored a superb solo try and set up another to inspire Argentina to a bonus-point win against a Georgian side that competed strongly from first whistle to last, much to the delight of the home crowd at the Avchala Stadium.
Sauze marshalled his forwards to good effect and was a constant threat around the base in a match where his opposite number Gela Aprasidze also caught the eye in kicking four first-half penalties, two from inside his own half.
Los Pumitas managed three first-half tries through Test-capped back row forward Martin Kremer, hooker Jose Gonzalez and No.8 Santiago Ruiz, but with flyhalf Tomas Albornoz only able to adds the extras to one and Aprasidze taking all his opportunities, there were only five points separating the teams at the break.
Backed by a stiff breeze, Albernoz made sure with two penalty attempts at the start of the second half as Argentina threatened to pull clear. A sniping run from Sauze, converted by Albernoz, put last year's bronze medallists 30-12 up, but the Junior Lelos' never-say-die spirit was rewarded when Giorgi Kveseladze took a pop pass from fellow replacement Giorgi Gogoladze to score near the posts.
Bautista Stavile stormed to the line after taking a well-executed switch pass from Sauze to settle Argentinean nerves, before replacement prop Ushangi Tcheishvili had the vociferous home crowd on their feet with Georgia's second try in the 71st minute. Georgia pressed hard to claim the losing bonus point as time ticked on but Argentina successfully defended a 15-phase move at the death to keep the gap at 11 points.
Argentina captain Tomas Malanos said it was a tough, physical game.
"We made a lot of mistakes and conceded a lot of penalties and that complicated this match for us, but we won and top our group," Malanos said.
"Now we start to think about France and correcting our mistakes."
Georgia captain Ilia Spanderashvili: "We did our best but came up just short. It was really good to get the opportunity to play against such a great rival in our own country."
Tries: Kremer, Stavile Bravin, Gonzalez, Ruiz, Sauze
Cons: Albornoz, Daireaux 2
Pens: Albornoz 2
Tries: Kveseladze, Tcheishvili
Cons: Aprasidze, Gogoladze
Pens: Aprasidze 4
Australia 24-17 Wales
Australia left it late to snatch victory over Wales, centre Izaia Perese bursting through the defence once again to cap an impressive display with the winning score for his side to leave them second in Pool A behind defending champions England.
The Australians may have filled their team with Super Rugby players and sevens stars, but it was Wales who took a fifth-minute lead after an audacious offload off the deck by their hooker Ellis Shipp to send centre Cameron Lewis over.
Wales flyhalf Arwel Robson added the conversion but missed a penalty attempt to increase his side's lead 10 minutes later. Australia then had Sevens player Simon Kennewell sin-binned for a dangerous tackle, but rather than concede points they opened their own account in his absence when scrumhalf Harrison Goddard landed his second of two penalty attempts.
Australia turned over a Welsh scrum and were rewarded when they worked the ball through the hands and quickly recycled possession for Henry Hutchison to go over in the corner, Goddard's conversion making it 10-7 in his side's favour.
It could have been even better for Australia but, with the clock in the red, former HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Rookie of the Year Hutchison looked set to score in the same corner, only to lose the ball in the tackle as he dived over the line.
The score remained that way until the 56th minute, Robson having missed a penalty attempt to draw Wales level, with neither side able to get on top until the Welsh wheeled a scrum for number eight James Botham - the grandson of former England cricketer Ian - to pick up and charge down the wing before offloading to send scrumhalf Dane Blacker over.
However, the lead lasted barely two minutes as Australia hit back following a good break down the left wing by replacement Semisi Tupou, the youngest player in the tournament who doesn't turn 18 until 29 June. They recycled the ball and went through a few phases before replacement prop Harry Johnson-Holmes dived through a gap.
Robson attempted a penalty from his own half with 10 minutes to go but fell well-short, however the flyhalf made no mistake with a drop goal attempt to tie the scores at 17-17 with three minutes to go. Unfortunately for Wales, just as they had done after Blacker's try, they handed the advantage back to Australia with Perese darting through a gap in the defence to score the winning try.
Australia captain Reece Hewat: "It was a very hard game, both teams played the full 80. Our overall execution has to become better for the next game. We dropped far too many balls, did a loose play or loose carries. We got to fix that and turn up to the next game."
Wales captain Will Jones: "It's tough to take because we played some great stuff, but we just switched off at crucial times. A simple example is when it was 17-17, after our drop goal, that try was a result of slipping off tackles. We just need to execute and be clinical not to give away silly penalties. We definitely have to work on the contact areas and we have to move on to the next game, which is a must-win for us."
Tries: Hutchison, Johnson-Holmes, Perese
Cons: Goddard, Nucifora 2
Tries: Lewis, Blacker
Cons: Robson 2
Source: @World Rugby