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NZ make Under-20s final in Georgia

World Rugby

Lynn McConnell     14 Jun 2017     World Rugby

Up 29-0 at half-time by dominating the big French pack, New Zealand were not able to maintain the consistency of play as France unleashed some outstanding running play in the second half to put the pressure on with some determined and traditional French running flair.

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However, the first points buffer proved sufficient to hold on for the win but the New Zealanders were given plenty to think about ahead of the final where England qualified to defend their title with a 24-22 win over South Africa. The final will be played at 2am on Monday (NZT).

The scene for the contest was set with France's response to the haka, the sides having to be told to break up and prepare by referee Mike Adamson after they each refused to move after the haka.

As the French attempted their first lineout drive with their heavier pack, the New Zealanders countered them and won the scrum feed from which the French were penalised for collapsing.

Moving the ball from the resulting lineout, they broke through when the referee didn't call a forward pass from prop Pouri Rakete-Stones to captain and flanker Luke Jacobson, who had a fine game leading the side. He raced into space to link with wing Tima Faingaanuku who found fullback Will Jordan in support to score.

Hooker Asafo Aumua made a turnover at the re-start and the ball was kicked downfield and run out by France. New Zealand ran the ball from the lineout and it was first five-eighths Tiaan Falcon who stepped over for the second try.
French indiscipline and frustration at the New Zealanders being able to upset their third lineout drive saw French flanker Baptiste Pesenti-Compagnoni sin-binned for kicking lock Sam Slade in a maul. New Zealand also protested that prop Ezekiel Lindenmuth was head-butted in the same incident. He was forced to leave the field to have the resulting facial cut treated.

Kicking out from the penalty got New Zealand in the position to charge ahead with left wing Caleb Clarke racing in to secure an uncontrolled pass and link with second five-eighths Orbyn Leger. When Leger was tackled, flanker Dalton Papali'i arrived to pick up the ball, step into space and stretch his arm out to score in the 23rd minute.

Even when a rare New Zealand midfield mistake was made conceding the ball, the French were unable to use it. They kicked downfield and New Zealand ran it back with hooker Asafo Aumua unleashing a stunning burst of speed down the sideline to outflank all but the last defender. But as the ball was released, a brilliant behind-the-back pass by Falcon found No.8 Marino Mikaele-Tuu and he put Clarke over for the fourth try with ease.

France had their best chance to score in the half right at the end but New Zealand defence held the ball up over the line. Just before the break Lindenmuth completed a strong tackle on replacement back Theo Millet but then used a swinging arm and was lucky to concede only a penalty.

Aumua opened the scoring five minutes into the second half after the lineout drive had taken play to the French line. Standing off the ruck on the blindside he hit halfback Ereatara Enari's pass at a superb angle to get under the defence to achieve what proved to be a vital try.

The French mounted their response from a lineout on the New Zealand line. Halfback Baptiste Couilloud ran off a fine take by No.8 Alexandre Roumat to score around the end of the lineout.

Then from the re-start, a turnover on the French line by Millet resulted in a breakout which saw Pesenti-Compagnoni finish off the length-of-the-field play with the try.

France brought on their substitutes and used the maul to better effect with replacement hooker Peato Mauvaka crossing for a 63rd minute try.

They were at it again in the 69th minute from a scrum on their own line when Pesenti Campagnoni again drove the ball forward. Then on the blindside, centre Pablo Uberti ran onto a short pass and kicked ahead. The ball was kicked infield by replacement wing Romain Buros and wing Lucas Tauzin picked up the ball and dived over for a remarkable try.

Scorers: New Zealand Under-20s 39 (Will Jordan, Tiaan Falcon, Dalton Papali'i, Caleb Clarke, Asafo Aumua tries; Falcon 4 con, 2 pen) France Under-20s 26 (Baptiste Couilloud, Baptiste Pesenti-Compagnoni, Peato Mauvaka , Lucas Tauzin tries; Alex Arrate 3 con ). HT: 29-0