England win Auckland thriller
England win Auckland thrillerSHARE
England Under-20 retained their title as the IRB's Junior World Champions when they edged their South African counterparts 21-20 in Auckland on Friday.
It was far from a clinical display. In fact it was a typical Final – in which there was good and bad kicking, handling errors, moments of sublime brilliance and a few poor options.
However, it was a great and enthralling encounter to watch, as two of the giants of the junior game went head-to-head.
In the end England deserved the win, if only because they made fewer errors and managed to overcome their soft moments better than the Baby Boks did.
Two of the key aspects were the line-outs, where JD Schickerling reigned supreme, and the kicking game – with Handré Pollard and Warrick Gelant's boots just so much more accurate and secure.
However, errors limited the Baby Boks' ability to capitalise on their superiority on those departments.
In fact all England's first-half points came as a direct result of errors by the SA players.
It didn't get much better after the break, with poor tackling gifting England even more opportunities – including the line-out that resulted in a crucial second try for England.
As has been the case all tournament, the South African bench made a huge impact, with young Duhan van der Merwe producing a crucial run that set the game up for a grandstand finish.
But in the end it was England's ability to remain calm under pressure that saw them hang on for the one-point win.
It was an assured start by the England team, who were running hard at a nervous-looking South African outfit.
However, the Baby Boks hung on through some determined defence, even winning a few penalties in the opening exchanges.
It was one of these penalties, when Billy Burns went offside at a ruck and played the scrumhalf, that allowed Handré Pollard to open the scoring in the 14th minute.
From the restart a knock-on by scrumhalf JP Smith – who had a nightmare tournament – allowed England field position. They piled on the pressure and the SA U20 team conceded a penalty, which Burns slotted to level the scores.
It was a moment of magic by Baby Bok captain, Pollard, set up the first try – centre Jesse Kriel running onto a well-weighted chip-kick and sprinting clear. Pollard added the extras – 10-3 at the end of the first quarter.
SA U20 dominated territory for most of the second quarter, and had a few chances, but it was silly offside penalty that gifted England fullback Aaron Morris a shot at goal. The English No.15 landed the kick from well inside his half – 6-10, with half-time approaching.
England's first try, right on the stroke of half-time, came after a missed tackle by Andre Esterhuizen. England piled on the pressure and quick recycling allowed No.11 Nathan Earle to stroll over on the opposite wing. Burns was wide with the conversion and England took a one-point (11-10) lead into the break.
Burns, after a breakdown penalty, and Pollard, for a similar offence, exchanged early penalties in the second half.
Then, after some sloppy defending by SA, England had a line-out deep inside the opposition 22. They mauled strongly and replacement Joel Conlon had the armchair ride over the line. Burns made it 21-13 with the conversion.
However, with just on 15 minutes remaining Baby Bok replacement Duhan van der Merwe went on a powerful run down the left wing, a burst that resulted in Jesse Kriel getting his second try. The Pollard conversion made it a one-point game – 20-21.
However, despite their best efforts with ball in hand, SA U20 failed to find a way to score the winner – a Pollard drop-goal attempt just sailing wide and handling errors also costing them.
Man of the match: JD Schickerling made life a nightmare for England in the line-outs. It is amazing to think this young man was still at school last year. Warrick Gelant was a rock at fullback and he has a meant step to boot. Even though he made a few errors and had a nervous start, South African Under-20 captain and flyhalf Handré Pollard soon settled down to stamp his mark on the game. The English loose trio of James Chisholm, Gus Jones and Ross Moriarty had a huge impact at the breakdown. Our man of the match award goes to England flyhalf Billy Burns – who was, by some distance, team's most creative back. He took on the South African defence and varied his options well. While he also made a few errors, he contributed 11 points with the boot in a winning cause.
Moment of the match: There was the first try, when SA U20 flyhalf Handré Pollard produced a sublime chip-kick for Jessie Kriel to score. England opened the game up when they mauled the ball over from a line-out in the 53rd minute – replacement Joel Conlon getting the armchair ride. However, the score that set up the grandstand finish was the second try by Jesse Kriel in the 65th minute, after a powerful burst down the left wing by Duhan van der Merwe.
Villain of the match: Nothing villainous in this match. Just a lot of young heroes, 46 of them!
For South Africa U20:
Tries: J Kriel 2
Cons: Pollard 2
Pens: Pollard 2
For England U20:
Tries: Earle, Conlon
Pens: Burns 2, Morris
South Africa U20: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Dan Kriel, 13 Jessie Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Sergeal Petersen, 10 Handré Pollard (captain), 9 JP Smith, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Victor Sekekete, 20 Jean Luc du Preez, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Jean Luc du Plessis, 23 Duhan van der Merwe.
England U20: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Howard Packman, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Henry Taylor, 8 James Chisholm, 7 Gus Jones, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Maro Itoje (captain), 3 Paul Hill, 2 Tom Woolstencroft, 1 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Alex Lundberg, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 20 Joel Conlon , 21 Callum Braley, 22 Sam Olver, 23 Henry Purdy.
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Matt O'Brien (Australia), Joaquin Montes (Uruguay)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)