The IRB Junior World Championship 2011 final will have a familiar look to it after defending champions New Zealand set up a title decider with England, the side they have beaten to win two of their previous three titles amid a 19-match unbeaten run in the tournament.
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NEW ZEALAND 37-7 AUSTRALIA
By Tom Chick in Treviso
New Zealand’s bid for a fourth successive IRB Junior World Championship title remains on track after they beat their trans-Tasman rivals 37-7 in the second semi final at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo in Treviso on Wednesday.
The final score may look convincing after New Zealand scored 37 unanswered points, but the match was in stark contrast to the 2010 final, with the Baby Blacks facing an altogether tougher and more competitive team to the one they beat 62-17 in Argentina.
But it was another fly half stealing the show, just as George Ford had done for England in their semi final victory over France, with Gareth Anscombe scoring 22 points in New Zealand’s win.
The victory stretched New Zealand’s unbeaten run in the tournament to 19 matches and they will now face England on Sunday in a repeat of the 2008 and 2009 finals after Rob Hunter’s side earlier beat France 33-18.
Chris Kuridrani, who arrived only on Sunday as an injury replacement, had given Australia a deserved 7-0 lead after a scoreless opening 10 minutes when David Nucifora’s charges frustrated their opponents and starved them of possession, resulting in the try.
New try benchmark
However, that only seemed to incense the Baby Blacks and midway through the first half Francis Saili broke through the resolute defence to draw the scores level, before Anscombe took his tournament points tally past the half-century mark with two penalties for a 13-7 lead at half time.
Australia flanker Michael Hooper and centre Tom Kingston proved lively throughout the match but were punished by a New Zealand team looking for their fourth consecutive title and the Aussies will now play France in the third-place play-off.
In the second half, New Zealand captain Luke Whitelock helped extend the defending champions’ lead as the number 8 bundled his way through three players before offloading to Charles Piutau for his fifth try of the tournament.
Having scored braces against Italy and Wales, the wing drew level with England’s Christian Wade as the tournament’s leading try scorer on five, before Anscombe added the extras and a further penalty.
The son of coach Mark Anscombe, the tournament’s leading points scorer then converted his own try after intercepting a wayward pass by his opposite number Ben Volavola and racing away to touch down.
Replacement Brad Weber added a fourth New Zealand try at the end, the Baby Blacks' 34th of the tournament, to take them past their previous record of 33 at each of the previous Junior World Championships with one match – the final – remaining.
ENGLAND 33-18 FRANCE
By Tom Chick in Treviso
England booked their place in the IRB Junior World Championship 2011 final after beating France 33-18 in an enthralling first semi final at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo on Wednesday, George Ford scoring 18 points in the match as Rob Hunter’s side came from 18-13 behind to reach a third final in four years.
Christian Wade opened the scoring in front of a capacity crowd in Treviso, crossing for his fifth try of the tournament after a perfectly weighted kick from centre Owen Farrell, but it was Ford who proved the difference against a resilient French defence.
France, playing in their first ever Junior World Championship semi final, were unable to prevent the 18-year-old fly half from pulling the strings and they now must regroup for the third-place play-off on Sunday.
But England, who won the last meeting between the two teams in the Under 20 Six Nations 19-8 with Ford kicking 14 points, were made to work hard for this win.
Prop Sebastien Taofifenua scored his second try of the tournament within minutes of Wade’s effort to give France the lead, which Jean Pascal Barraque extended with a penalty, but it was England who led 13-10 at half time thanks to their fly half.
Ford, the youngest player in the tournament having only turned 18 in March, danced his way to the try-line only minutes before the break, selling the French defence a dummy after a well-worked lineout in France’s 22.
Barraque, so impressive in the Pool B decider with Australia, drew France level within minutes of the restart and wing Marvin O’Connor edged them further ahead after combining well with full back Jean Marcel Buttin to outpace the English cover defence.
That, though, proved to be France’s final score as England full back Ben Ransom, who minutes earlier had missed a tackle on O’Connor, found space on the flank to touch down for the 2008 and 2009 runners-up before Ford added the extras.
Ford added two further penalties to push England through the 600-point barrier – one France had reached with O’Connor’s try to become the first northern hemisphere side to do so.
However, France were left to rue a glorious opportunity to keep the game alive with 10 minutes remaining, hooker Clement Bourgeois throwing a forward pass when Barraque had a free run to the line.
It ultimately mattered little, though, as England captain Alex Gray read Jean Marc Doussain’s long pass perfectly to race away under the posts to spark celebrations with their final place confirmed.
England, who lost at this stage to Australia in 2010, will now be looking to win their first ever title, having been beaten by New Zealand in their two previous final appearances in Wales (2008) and Japan (2009).