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Unwavering France sink NZ under 20

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Andy Burt     13 Jun 2018     Getty Images

The Craig Philpott-coached side went into the game as the best attacking team in the tournament but had few answers to an unwavering France side who out muscled New Zealand upfront and shut them down out wide. 

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Last year these two teams met in a high-scoring semifinal with New Zealand getting home 39-26. But there was to be no repeat of that score line as both teams threw themselves into a highly physical battle from the opening whistle.

Spurred on by a sold out crowd at Stade Aime-Giral, France did brilliantly in the first half to starve New Zealand of possession and gain a strong territorial advantage despite playing into a stiff breeze.

New Zealand struggled to contain France’s offloading game and couldn’t cope with their well-oiled maul as France smartly chewed up the minutes in the first 40 minutes.

It took 30 minutes for the first points in the game when France first five-eighth Carbonel landed a handy penalty after a steady period of attack in the New Zealand half.

France’s best try-scoring opportunity went begging on the stroke of halftime when a perfectly weighted crosskick was shelled by wing Lebel on the line to leave the halftime score at 3-0.
With the wind at their backs, France immediately swung onto attack in the second half and crossed for the first try when second five-eighth Ntamack went over from an inside ball.

Trailing 10-0 and with the packed home crowd finding their voice, New Zealand had a horror 15 minute period as France poured the pressure on at scrum time and added two more Carbonel penalties to extend their lead to 16-0.

With just 10 minutes remaining, New Zealand were in danger of being completely shut out. But Harry Plummer provided some hope when he crossed out wide and landed the sideline conversion to make it 16-7.

From the kick off, New Zealand cut loose once again and looked like they would score only for the ball to be dropped in midfield.

That was to be it for New Zealand as France kept the ball tight and wound down the clock in the final five minutes to qualify for their first World Rugby Under 20 Championships final.

New Zealand captain Tom Christie said: “I can’t credit France enough, they are an immensely tough side and facing them at home is always going to be tough”

France will meet England in the final, while New Zealand will take on old foe South Africa in the bronze medal match on Monday morning (NZT).

Scorers:

Fracne 16 (Ntamack try, Carbonel con, 3 pen) New Zealand 7 (Harry Plummer try, con)
HT: 3-0