England are still on course for consecutive Grand Slams after recording their second bonus-point win of the U20 Six Nations, beating Wales 37-12 at Kingston Park in Newcastle.
Steve Bates' side started slowly, as they did against Italy in round one, conceding an early try to Hari Morgan, but they soon warmed to the task with captain Ben White and debutant Cameron Redpath dotting down to give the defending champions an 18-5 interval lead.
Two tries in as many second-half minutes, from Gabriel Ibitoye and Jordan Olowofela, put the home side out of sight before Rio Dyer pulled one back for Wales. The hosts weren’t done yet, though, as flanker Aaron Hinckley went over in the closing minutes from short range to give the final scoreline an even more one-sided feel.
While England take on Scotland next, at Myreside on 23 February, in what is a dress rehearsal for their World Rugby U20 Championship Pool B encounter in June, the destiny of the title could well hinge on the outcome of their game against current leaders France a fortnight later at Stade de la Méditerranée in Beziers.
France are bidding for their own Grand Slam having followed up their round one victory over Ireland with an emphatic 69-19 defeat of Scotland at the Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld.
Adrien Seguret scored a second-half hat-trick and Romain Ntamack kicked 20 points from seven conversions and two penalties for Les Bleuets, who now sit atop the table on points difference from England.
Guy Graham, brother of England senior squad member Gary, was rewarded for a tireless display for the Scots with a couple of tries.
IRELAND GIVEN A SCARE BY 14-MAN ITALY
Italy’s progress at U20 level was again evident against Ireland at Donnybrook on Friday as they fought back from 31-15 down at half-time to almost snatch victory despite playing with 14 men for all but nine minutes of the contest.
Italy got off to the dream start when Tommaso Coppo scored an intercept try, but the Irish were soon back on level terms when James McCarthy dotted down.
Once Azzurini flanker Jacopo Bianchi was red-carded, Ireland took control and scored four more tries before the interval through Hugh O’Sullivan, Cormac Daly, McCarthy again and fellow winger Hugh O’Sullivan.
Niccolo Cannone’s converted score lifted Italy on the stroke of half-time but, crucially, they conceded the first points of the second half when tight-head Jack Aungier crashed over.
At 38-15 down and a man short, the game looked well and truly up for the visitors, but they responded magnificently to ensure the crowd were treated to a grandstand finish. Damiano Mazza and Antonio Rizzi scored tries in quick succession, with the fly-half converting his own try to close the gap to 11 points.
When replacement forward Edoardo Iachizzi forced his way over and Rizzi added the extras, there were only four points in it, but time was not on Italy’s side and Ireland held on for victory.