World Rugby U20 Championships: Day One Round-up

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Last Word on Rugby, by Aaron Tillyer.

The World Rugby U20 Championships kicked off today in Georgia, with all 12 teams in action for the opening round of the pool stages.

The reigning world champions England faced Samoa in a first-ever-meeting between the two sides. New Zealand, fresh from their recent Oceania U20 Championship win, were up against a Scotland team looking to make amends following a poor Six Nations campaign.

Here’s a full round-up of all of the Day Ones action:

Pool A

England 74 Samoa 17

World Champions England began their title defence in emphatic style, running out 74-17 winners against Samoa. Twelve tries, including a double from captain Zach Mercer, safely sealed maximum points as they seek to win their fourth world title in five years. There were also doubles from Dominic Morris and Ali Crossdale.

Samoa offered little resistance and two yellow cards and an error-strewn display hampered any opportunities to attack. The Pacific Islanders did muster two late tries gaining some respectability to the score line.

Australia 24 Wales 17

Australia opened their World Championships account with a 24-17 win over Wales. Despite going down a score early on, the men in gold rallied and scored three tries on their way to victory. Wales clawed it back to 17-17 following a superb drop goal from Arwel Robson. But the Welsh failed to gain the restart and Queensland Reds’ Izaia Perese powered over in the dying moments of the game, to seal the win.

A losing bonus-point for Wales will be little consolation in a game they perhaps should have won.

Pool B

New Zealand 42 Scotland 20

New Zealand stormed to a 42-20 win over Scotland in Pool B, following a powerful second half display. Scotland were only nine points adrift at the break, but scores from Dalton Papali’I, Orbyn Leger and Tima Fainga’anuku sealed the bonus point victory for the Baby Blacks.

Scotland will be hugely disappointed not to have competed more in the second forty. However, a superb shift from winger Darcy Graham for Scotland touched down midway through the first half.

Italy 22 Ireland 21

A dramatic finish in the dying stages saw Italy snatch victory over Ireland in a thrilling 22-21 encounter. The Italians, who finished bottom in the Six Nations, started the stronger and opened up a 15-3 lead. But an Irish resurgence through winger Calvin Nash gave Ireland the lead. A late score from Italy full-back Massimo Cioffi handed back the lead to Italy.

Ireland had the chance to win the game, but a penalty kick that drifted wide with only moments to go, gave the Italians their first victory at the World Championships since 2014.

Pool C

South Africa 23 France 23

A late converted try from Juarno Augustus in over-time handed South Africa a 23-23 draw against France in Pool C. The Junior Boks started the brighter of the two, racing to a 10-0 lead. Ill-discipline and two yellow cards handed the momentum over to France who scored twice through Florian Dufour and Baptiste Couillard.

The Baby Bleus looked good, but a yellow card for France’s Baptiste Pesenti in the 81st minute gave South Africa and Augustus the opportunity to cross the line late. Curwin Bosch held his nerve to land the conversion; and the all important draw.

The South Africans will need to improve greatly if they are to compete for the title this year.

Georgia 26 Argentina 37

Georgia kicked off their campaign in what was arguably the game of the day. Argentina were eventual 37-26 winners in a tale-of-two-halves display. Argentina dominated for most of the first half opening up a 17-6 lead going into the break. However, the Junior Lelos looked a rejuvenated side in the second half, scoring three tries of their own in just six minutes to reduce the deficit.

It was just a little too late for the brave Georgians, who will face South Africa on Sunday. This higher level of competition will certainly help them #GrowTheGame in Eastern Europe.

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Round Two kicks-off on June 4, with another full calendar of matches featuring some of the best Under 20-year old players across World Rugby.

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