New Zealand ripped up the World Rugby U20 Championship record books with a ten-try 64-17 win over England to lift the distinctive trophy for the sixth time in the 10-year history of the premier age-grade tournament.
The 10 tries was the most by a single side in a final – beating the seven New Zealand had scored against England in 2009 and Australia a year later – and also ensured that the champions ended the tournament with their highest number of tries at 41.
Captain Luke Jacobson's try with time almost up on the clock also ensured New Zealand beat their previous record points haul and winning margin in a final, set back in 2010 when they overpowered first-time finalists Australia 62-17 in Argentina.
New Zealand's backline had produced some sublime rugby across the tournament but today it was the forwards who scored all bar one of the tries at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in th Georgian capital Tbilisi, a testimony to the physical display that England simply had no answer to,
South Africa completed the medallists after beating France 37-15 in the third place play-off, while Scotland replicated their senior team's win over Australia to record their best-ever ranking of fifth. Wales edged Italy late on to finish seventh, while Ireland denied Georgia ninth place in a titanic battle played in an electric environment.
Samoa will return to the World Rugby U20 Trophy next year after losing the 11th place play-off 53-42 to Argentina in the first match of the final day.
FINAL: ENGLAND 17-64 NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand were a different class in the final and never looked like missing out on a sixth U20 Championship title from the moment Dalton Papali'i scored the first of their record 10 tries in the fifth minute at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium, with defending champions England simply unable to get their own game going thanks to the physical display by the forwards and the attacking prowess of the backline.
New Zealand's intentions were clear for everyone to see with a stirring Haka and they immediately had England on the back foot when winger Caleb Clarke found some space on the left touchline and it wasn't long before the opening try came, flanker Dalton Papali'i doing his own impression of Superman to dive over players on the ground to touch down in the fifth minute.
Stephen Perofeta only arrived in Tbilisi a couple of days ago to replace Player of the Tournament nominee Tiaan Falcon after he was ruled out with concussion but, while the fly-half missed the conversion, he was showing just why he started for the Blues against the British and Irish Lions earlier this month, making a break that could have led to a second try just minutes later.
The second try did come in the 10th minute when Isaia Walker-Leaware burst through the middle and Clarke made another break before New Zealand punished some passive tackling from the defending champions when prop Pouri Rakete-Stones barged over. England fly-half Max Malins uncharacteristically missed a penalty in the 12th minute and they would have been punished again had centre Orbyn Leger been able to take a perfectly-weighted kick from Perofeta shortly afterwards.
Perofeta missed a penalty himself in the 17th minute and England scored with their first real foray into New Zealand territory when Malins fed Ben Earl and the openside flanker cut through at pace and was unstoppable on his charge to the line. Tima Faingaanuku looked like he would cancel that score out within minutes when Ibitoye was caught in no-man's land but Harry Randall's 'high-five' tackle knocked the ball from his grasp with the try-line calling.
New Zealand did, though, score two quick-fire tries to move to 26-7 just before the half-hour mark. First Will Jordan drew the defence and offloaded to Asafo Aumua, releasing the hooker for another sprint to the line and score New Zealand's 20th try in U20 Championship finals. That was quickly followed by another burst from Jordan after England kicked the ball straight to him, the full-back burst through the defence and Walker-Leaware crashed over.
There was a lengthy delay in play while England hooker Joe Mullis was treated and stretched off, but Perofeta held his nerve to kick the conversion and then New Zealand finished the half with a flourish with two tries in as many minutes, the first through Aumua and then a near length-of-the-field try was finished by Jacobson to give them a point a minute in the first half and leave England scratching their heads at how to contain the waves of attack.
A seventh try followed seven minutes into the second half following a remarkable finish from Josh McKay, the replacement for Clarke, being tackled by Malins but managing to roll over acrobatically and ground the ball. England were given a faint hope a minute later when New Zealand prop Ezekiel Lindenmuth was yellow-carded for a needless late tackle and in his absence replacement scrum-half Alex Mitchell took a quick tap and went over for their second try.
Restored to full complement it wasn't long before New Zealand scored their eighth try – the most ever by a side – and it was fitting that it was their livewire hooker Aumua to score it to complete his hat-trick and join Telusa Veainu in that elite club, the latter having scored three in the 62-17 win over Australia in 2010. A ninth followed when Tom Christie crashed over with 10 minutes to go to set a record for the most tries in a final with 11 in total.
England had simply not been able to get their game going against a physical and clinical New Zealand side, but they were rewarded when Earl broke and then James Grayson put up a perfectly-weighted kick for his fellow replacement Josh Bayliss to collect the ball on the bounce and dive over. There was still time, though, for New Zealand to fittingly have the final say with Jacobson's second try.
Jacobson now matches the achievement of his older brother Mitchell, who was an unused replacement when New Zealand beat England in the 2015 final.
New Zealand captain Luke Jacobson: "It feels amazing, it’s been our goal for a long time – you feel it inside. It’s really exciting. We’ve had a discussion in the team about keeping the chat up and staying really positive. That’s what we did today, we were talking left and right and everybody was staying on the same page. We just kept working really hard and played some good finals footy. England are a great side, I think that we just got a little bit on top of them today. We just got the bounce of the ball, I’m sure that on any other day it may be a much closer score.
"I’m not sure (when it will sink in). I’m sure tonight everyone will keep celebrating and we’ll know about it in the morning. When we wake up tomorrow morning with the medal around our necks I think that is when it’s really going to kick in."
New Zealand coach Craig Philpott: “It was a good first half, we wanted to start well, we knew that was important in a final. To be up by 40 points at half-time made the half-time message a bit difficult, especially with what happened against France in the semi-final, but the boys went out really hard at the start of the second half and got early points and it was nice to be able to relax in that last 20 minutes."
England captain Zach Mercer: "I'm disappointed just with this game but through the tournament I'm not. We can leave Georgia with our heads held high. I've got real credit in the boys. New Zealand is a world-class outfit and they are built to score tries but so are we. We kind of switched off in first 10 minutes. You make one mistake and New Zealand will capitalise on that, that's what they did and that's what makes them a world-class opposition. I've never witnessed a team like that, but for some boys it might be the last opportunity to put the jersey on so as I said we want to keep our heads held high."
THIRD PLACE PLAY-OFF: SOUTH AFRICA 37-15 FRANCE
South Africa beat France with an identical scoreline to Saturday’s game between the senior sides in Durban to claim the bronze medal at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium and condemn Les Bleuets to another fourth-place finish.
After a tight first half which mirrored the drawn pool game between the two in the pool stages, the Junior Springboks produced a strong second-half performance to register a relatively comfortable victory, hooker Johan Grobbelaar helping himself to a brace of tries to add to his double against Argentina.
France dominated territory in the opening exchanges but it was South Africa who were first on the scoreboard in the 16th minute when Ruben van Heerden showed good awareness to place the ball at the foot of the post following a series a pick-and-goes. Manie Libbok stepped up to slot the conversion.
However, hooker Peato Mauvaka’s try from the back of a powerful driving maul and a penalty from Baptiste Couilloud ensured it was France who held the slenderest of half-time leads at 8-7
Whatever South Africa coach Chean Roux said to his team in the changing room clearly worked as they racked up 30 unanswered points to take the game away from Les Bleuets. Within two minutes of the restart they were back in front as Grobbelaar took the ball at pace from a well-worked lineout move and charged over from 15 metres out.
A penalty from Libbok was then followed by a try for David Brits after the replacement intercepted a pass from Couilloud and raced home from halfway. Libbok added the straightforward conversion and then kicked another penalty before Grobbelaar combined with scrum-half Embrose Papier and Gianni Lombard in the wide channels for his second.
Libbok missed his first kick from six attempts but the two points were immaterial at that stage, especially after Player of the Tournament nominee and number eight Juarno Augustus put even more daylight between the teams with his seventh try of the tournament. France grabbed a consolation when Couilloud converted his own try two minutes from time but South Africa were worthy winners.
South Africa captain Ernst van Rhyn: "It was disappointing to lose the previous game against England but I'm proud of the way the guys picked themselves up and ended on a high. We are very pleased with the victory. In the first half we didn't really play the rugby we wanted to play but in the second half we came through a bit better. It's sad that it has come to an end but it's been a great tournament and I have learnt a lot. We would have liked to have gone a bit further this year but unfortunately it wasn't to be."
France hooker Daniel Brennan: "We were quite even. We had a good first half, we had ball for a long time, we were attacking and should have scored more points and we just got tired and when they had their opportunities they scored. That interception try was the moment that turned the game around, we could have won at that moment as we could have lost. I guess we just lost. Rugby is a wonderful sport. We love playing rugby. On the international stage it's even better, you're playing against the best boys of your generation all around the world so you can only be happy. We were hoping to get a bronze medal, no French team has ever done it but I guess we didn't. We will come back next year better and stronger and we are going to get that medal."
FIFTH PLACE PLAY-OFF: SCOTLAND 24-17 AUSTRALIA
Scotland needed a last-gasp match-winner from two-try hero Charlie Shiel to emulate the senior side and beat Australia in a thrilling fifth place play-off at Avchala Stadium.
The defeat was particularly harsh on Australian scrum-half Harrison Goddard, who scored all of his side’s points through two converted tries and a penalty in a superb individual display.
Scotland went into the match knowing they were guaranteed their best-ever finish at the U20 Championship, but inspired by Gregor Townsend’s side’s deeds in Sydney they were clearly determined to leave Georgia on a high and set about taking the game to Australia from the off.
Influential playmaker Hamish Stewart was not given any time on the ball to dictate play and had three kicks charged down inside the first quarter as Scotland dominated territory and possession.
However, Australia’s aggressive counter-rucking caused several turnovers and negated the Scots’ attempts to get their dangerous back three into the match.
A bust down the blindside from Izaia Perese, Australia’s hat-trick hero against Italy, set up the position from which Goddard got his first try of the match, the scrum-half twice involved in the move before burrowing over from close range. Goddard then punished Scotland for straying offside in midfield to take Australia’s lead into double figures.
Connor Eastgate pulled three points back with a well-struck 48-metre penalty late in the first half but spurned another opportunity moments later when Australia were penalised for a high tackle on Darcy Graham.
Full-back Blair Kinghorn’s break and offload led to a try for winger Robbie Nairn after 49 minutes and Eastgate’s conversion saw Scotland draw level at 10-10. Scotland then edged ahead when, after Ross McCann had been held up a fraction short of the line, Shiels picked up at the base of the ruck to nip over for his first try.
On the hour mark Australia struck back after a loose pass from Shiel ricocheted off a team-mate and Scotland were left guilty of ball watching as it ballooned up in the air. Goddard reacted quickest to gather possession, turn on his heels and race home from 40 metres out. He then converted his own try to make it all-square again at 17-17.
Both sides had chances to win it before Shiel’s moment of glory, with a long-range penalty going just wide for Australia, while tight-head prop Adam Nicol was held up over the line as Scotland pressed forward.
With barely a minute left on the clock and golden point extra-time looking likely, Australia’s willingness to attack from anywhere cost them dearly as a choke tackle from Scotland resulted in them winning the put-in at the scrum in the shadow of the posts.
The Scotland eight, under the pump all game, managed to hold their own and Shiel scampered under the posts to spark scenes of jubilation. Those cheers were put on temporary hold while the TMO checked to see if flanker Angus Scott-Young had been illegally held in at the scrum, but after a short period of deliberation the try was ruled good and Scotland were left to celebrate a marvellous weekend of rugby.
Scotland match-winner Charlie Shiel said: "It feels unbelievable. It shows all the effort that we have put in since the Six Nations, which was pretty disappointing for us. This group of boys have formed a strong bond and I think that willingness to fight for each other showed throughout the game and ended up with us winning it."
Australia scrum-half Harrison Goddard: "Obviously it was disappointing to finish like that, but I think we showed a lot of pride to go 80 minutes with Scotland who are a great team. It was a 50:50 call at the end, but that's footy I guess. We've had a great tour, playing overseas is great fun, and we'll take it on the chin and move on."
SEVENTH PLACE PLAY-OFF: WALES 25-24 ITALY
A Phil Jones penalty saw Wales secure seventh place after Italy flanker Jacopo Bianchi was sent off late on in their closely-fought battle.
Leading 24-15 with just 13 minutes left to play, Italy looked set to cap their best-ever performance at the U20 Championship with a maiden win over Wales on this stage, but a superb cameo off the bench from Cameron Edwards gave Wales the momentum they needed to thwart off the brave Azzurrini.
Alessandro Troncon’s side turned over Wales at will to weather an early storm and take a 6-3 lead thanks to two penalties from the excellent Antonio Rizzi to one from his opposite number Arwel Robson.
However, Wales captured the lead when second-row Callum Bradbury profited from Robson’s neat footwork to score the first try, converted by the fly-half.
Rizzi kicked his third penalty to close the gap to one before Wales scored again on the stroke of half-time when Jones spotted how narrow the Italian defence was and found Ryan Conbeer out on his own with a cross-field kick, leaving the winger with a simple run-in.
Robson marred an otherwise good display when his ill-advised chip kick on the edge of his own 22 fell into the hands of Italian winger Giovanni D'Onofrio, who crossed with the second half barely a couple of minutes old.
Rizzi’s subsequent conversion and fourth penalty handed Italy a 19-15 lead which was then stretched to 24-15 when Dario Schiabel took an inside ball from Ludovico Manni to score the Azzurrini’s second try.
Wales introduced the muscular presence of Edwards to bust holes in midfield and Wales were back in it when Jones finished off a fine passing move. Robson converted and was then the recipient of a crushing tackle from Bianchi which earned him a red card and Wales a shot at goal which Jones calmly slotted over.
Wales captain Will Jones: “The boys needed that. We’d had some disappointing defeats, especially to Scotland in the last game, and the boys dug deep and got the victory. When they came out for the second half and scored straight away and then went over in the corner, we were massively under pressure but we regrouped and stayed calm and pulled through."
Antonio Rizzi: “We trained hard for this match because we know Wales are a very good team and we are upset with this result because we had a lot of opportunities to score and we didn’t take them. In the last 20 minutes, we didn’t play with our heads, but we showed at this Championship that we can play good rugby."
NINTH PLACE PLAY-OFF: IRELAND 24-18 GEORGIA
Ireland brought the curtain down on an injury-hit campaign with a hard-fought 24-18 victory over tournament hosts Georgia that secured ninth place.
The Irish had dominated the early exchanges and it was only a fabulous try-saving tackle by winger Davit Meskhi that prevented his opposite number Calvin Nash from opening the scoring in the sixth minute. In a second blow for Ireland Nash was forced off having injured his shoulder in the act of trying to ground the ball.
Georgia drew strength from that tackle and their forwards destroyed Ireland in two scrums shortly afterwards, powering through their opponents to earn the penalty and that was a scenario that continued for the rest of the match, much to the delight of the home crowd which greeted every tackle, break or penalty won with a cacophony of noise.
Ireland did finally open the scoring in the 21st minute when full-back Alan Tynan went over in the corner, but another dominant Georgian scrum gave Gela Aprasdize a chance to put his side on the scoreboard with a penalty seven minutes later. Georgia went close to adding a try a minute when a loose Ireland pass was hacked on but Giorgi Tsiklauri couldn't gather, colliding with the post in his attempts.
The Junior Lelos didn't have to wait long, though, to get their try as just past the half-hour mark prop Guram Gogichashvili came charging through to take the inside pass from fly-half Tedo Abzhandadze and power through the Irish defender on the line to give the host nation a 10-7 advantage at half-time.
Ireland regrouped in the break and came out to play with an increased tempo, reaping the rewards quickly as first number eight Caelen Doris and then his fellow back-row and captain Paul Boyle crashed through the Georgian defence to silence the passionate home crowd at Mikheil Meskhi Stadium to give the 2016 runners-up a 21-10 lead within 10 minutes of the restart.
But if Ireland thought they had broken the Georgian resolve then they were mistaken as a moment of magic from Aprasidze sent the crowd wild, the test-capped scrum-half dancing his way through the defence from inside his own half to cut the deficit to six points.
Aprasidze then added a penalty to make it a three-point ball game going into the final quarter. It wasn't to be Georgia's day and they had to settle for a repeat of their 10th place finish in their Championship debut last year, Ireland being awarded a scrum penalty with six minutes to go and Conor Dean made no mistake to leave the Junior Lelos needing a try to win.
Ireland captain Paul Boyle: "Georgia were a really physical team. They have a nine and 10 who can play ball also. We expected the game to be physical: a good maul, brilliant scrum, a really difficult scrum, but we were looking out for the nine and 10 as well. We did our best to combat, still didn't get it 100 per cent right but anyway we got over the line at the end. The game was decided when we went over the line and were just able to hold on there. If you have a score ahead in these games then it helps and we just fought it out."
Georgia coach Ilia Maisuradze: "The start was a bit sloppy for us but then we managed to fix these problems. We knew that if we kept the ball we would be more dangerous than Ireland and it was working ok in the first half. We played a good wide defence. In the second half we hoped to start more actively but everything happened in reverse. They managed to add some speed to their attacks. They had few fast rucks and we couldn't adjust our defence to that. Probably we were not enough concentrated. We should have paid more attention to our mistakes and this game was winnable."
11TH PLACE PLAY-OFF: SAMOA 42-53 ARGENTINA
With the loser relegated to the World Rugby U20 Trophy in 2018, fans could have been expecting a tight encounter but instead were treated to a 13-try feast at Avchala Stadium. Argentina, though, were always in control after a fast start and will be relieved to have retained their place in the U20 Championship and condemned Samoa to an immediate return to the second-tier competition.
Argentina, facing the threat of relegation for the first time, started positively and caught Samoa cold, scoring at more than a point a minute in the opening quarter. Fly-half Tomas Albornoz kicked a third-minute penalty and hooker Jose Gonzalez powered over from a lineout five minutes later. It got worse for Samoa when full-back Bautista Delguy intercepted and ran in another try from Los Pumitas' own half and some poor tackling allowed Luciano Gonzalez to race round under the posts to make it 24-0 after only 15 minutes.
Flanker Bautista Stavile thought he had Argentina's fourth try when he ran in to finish off a flowing move, but it was ruled out for a forward pass and it proved to be the end of his match as the injury that had kept him out of the fourth round loss to Georgia was aggravated. It proved a potential 14-point swing as centre Hunter Paisami stepped his man and went through the middle to reward the increase in intensity shown by Samoa.
They made an error from the kick-off, though, and Argentina punished them when Delguy, a Youth Olympic Games rugby sevens' silver medallist in 2014, dinked a kick through and regathered to run over unchallenged to make it 31-7 in Los Pumitas' favour at half-time and put them firmly in control of this relegation play-off.
Samoa, though, came out a different side and prop Setu Enoka peeled off the back of a driving maul to catch the Argentina defence out within three minutes of the restart. But once again they made an error from the kick-off and Argentina made them pay, Albornoz stepping his way through to score under the posts to make it 14-38, even if only briefly with Darren Moore bursting through for Samoa's third try in the 50th minute.
Tries rained in the final quarter with defence seeming optional at times. Gonzalez began the six-try blitz when he coasted through some lazy tackles on the hour mark for his second of the game and Samoa soon lost Godinet Tinei to the sin-bin, where he was quickly joined by team-mate Theodore Solipo for an incident that saw a try for Caleb Faalili ruled out 11 minutes from time.
However, despite their 13 men Samoa were next to score with a free-flowing move, Paisami the man to finish it off. Argentina captain Tomas Malanos went over in the corner to ensure there was no sniff of a comeback for Samoa, but the Pacific islanders still finished iwth a flourish with tries from replacement Tagaloa Fonoti and full-back Alexander Pohla.
Argentina captain Tomas Malanos: “I think it was tough and hard tournament for us because we ended fighting for last position. I think we tried to think in positive way and this was a big experience for us. I think we were good in attacks in the first half today, but we gave them a lot of space and they scored some good tries as well. Overall we played a good match.”
Samoa coach Mahonri Schwalger: “For me this is a story to work on. I think the guys were not consistent. We showed some good performances against Australia and then we did not do enough in the next game. Today I was excited about the last 20 minutes of the game when the boys decided to play and get back to our structure. We have to make sure now that we win the Trophy again to qualify for the World Championship, learn from this and get back on track.”
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