Baby Blacks power to U20 title
Baby Blacks power to U20 titleSHARE
The 10 tries to three win was redemption for the side which was eliminated in pool play in 2016 and a triumph for captain and flank Luke Jacobson while hooker Asafo Aumua capped a superb tournament with a hat-trick of tries before injury forced him from the field.
But it was a team effort with outstanding contributions across a team which stamped its authority almost from the kick-off to start the game.
Jacobson said the side had put in a lot of work since November and he was 'stoked' to win the tournament. There had been a lot of chat after they had eased up in the second half of the semi-final against France so they were determined to put their foot on England's throat in the final.
He followed his brother Mitchell onto the winners' rostrum from two years ago and said looking at his brother's medal had been an inspiration for him.
The side suffered no loss of momentum with the enforced replacement of concussed flyhalf Tiaan Falcon after the French semi-final. Stephen Perofeta was flown in from New Zealand – where he was part of the Blues team who beat the British & Irish Lions – and had his own reward having said at the start of the season that he had some unfinished business at the U20 tournament after last year's disappointment.
It was his final conversion of seven that broke the highest score of 62 points scored by New Zealand against Australia in 2010.
England went into the game with the reputation for its forward pack but twice in the first five minutes it was the New Zealand forwards who showed they were ready for the challenge. From a tighthead out from England's 22, scrumhalf Ereatara Enari ran the ball blind and the ball moved through four phases before flank Dalton Papali'i picked up the ball and dived over the ruck for the first try.
From the restart Perofeta broke from his own 22 and raced 70 metres downfield.
His decision to continue alone saw the ball lost in the tackle but while England won the scrum, the ball was turned over and lock Isaia Walker-Leawere charged ahead. Moving the ball left, wing Caleb Clarke made a strong run before feeding inside to Aumua. From the ruck prop Pouri Rakete-Stones picked up the ball at speed and pushed through a gap for a ninth-minute try.
New Zealand mistakes, and penalties, failed them and allowed England back into the game after flank Ben Earls – who was one of the best of his side – made a strong run infield into the New Zealand 22.
Several rucks followed before flyhalf Max Malins, who had missed a penalty goal attempt from straight in front, held the ball up before releasing it to Earls who ploughed into a gap and straight ahead for a try.
England had a lucky break after an Enari blindside break allowed wing Tima Faingaanuku a run down the line but the ball was ripped from his grasp just short of the goal-line. Conceding a penalty from the scrum, New Zealand then held England scrumhalf Harry Randall up in a maul to win a turnover.
Moving the ball from the scrum, New Zealand fullback Will Jordan ran into the line and through a gap to pass the ball to hooker Asafo Aumua who barged through the defence to score in the 25th minute.
Just after the restart England kicked downfield to Jordan who took the ball unchallenged, straightened the play and set off downfield where Aumua was there in support. Papali'i was on hand to carry play to the line and it was Walker-Leawere who crossed in the 28th minute.
A lengthy break while and England hooker Joe Mullis was taken from the ground did not stop the New Zealanders, who finished the half with two tries in three minutes, both of them involving bullocking runs by Clarke on the left.
From the first it was Auvua who scored a second try and then after Clarke claimed a downfield kick by inside centre Orbyn Leger. He almost reached the goal-line before he was halted, but not before feeding captain and flank Jacobson over as New Zealand completed the half with 40 points in 40 minutes.
In scoring the try, Clarke looked to take a blow to his head and he was replaced at half-time by Josh McKay, who celebrated by making full use of another Aumua break to score the opening try of the second half.
New Zealand lost shape and the sin-binning of prop Ezekiel Lindenmuth for an unnecessary late and high shot on prop Ralph Adams-Hale and England responded with a try to replacement scrumha;lf Alex Mitchell.
But when restored to full strength, Aumua – in his final act of his game – capitalised on a turnover worked by Jordan off an England midfield play. Taking the ball up high 15 metres out from England's line, Aumua beat four defenders and then cork-screwed his way over the line to complete his hat-trick of tries.
There was more to come with turnovers which saw replacement flank Tom Christie and Jacobson score before the end.
For England U20:
Tries: Earl, Mitchell, Bayliss
For New Zealand U20:
Tries: Papali'i, Rakete-Stones, Aumua 3, Walker-Leawere, Jacobson 2, McKay, Christie
Cons: Perofeta 7
Yellow card: Ezekiel Lindenmuth (New Zealand, 48; high tackle)
England: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Darren Atkins, 13 Will Butler, 12 Jacob Umaga, 11 Gabriel Ibitoye, 10 Max Malins, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Zach Mercer (captain), 7 Ben Earl, 6 Dino Lamb, 5 Jack Nay, 4 Josh Caulfield, 3 Ciaran Knight, 2 Joe Mullis, 1 Ralph Adams-Hale.
Replacements: 16 Henry Walker, 17 Ollie Dawe, 18 Alex Seville, 19 Justin Clegg, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Paolo Odogwu.
New Zealand: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Tima Faingaanuku, 13 Braydon Ennor, 12 Orbyn Leger, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Ereatara Enari, 8 Marino Mikaele-Tuu, 7 Dalton Papali'i, 6 Luke Jacobson (captain), 5 Samuel Slade, 4 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 3 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Ezekiel Lindenmuth.
Replacements: 16 JP Sauni, 17 Harrison Allan, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Sam Caird, 20 Tom Christie, 21 Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, 22 Tamati Tua, 23 Josh McKay.
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)