JWC: New Zealand through to JWC Final while Fiji face relegation
Defending champions New Zealand and hosts South Africa will contest the IRB Junior World Championship 2012 final on Friday after overcoming Wales and Argentina respectively before a crowd of nearly 20,000 at Newlands.
New Zealand had to survive an early scare against a Welsh side that had handed them their first ever JWC defeat in the pool stages, but tries either side of half time proved decisive in the Baby Blacks running out 30-6 winners.
South Africa then proved too strong for Argentina, the surprise package of the tournament playing in their first ever semi final, and with a passionate home crowd roaring them on they triumphed 35-3.
The Baby Blacks had been hurting since the 9-6 loss to Wales in round two and were determined to set the record straight and keep New Zealand on track to remain the only nation to lift the distinctive JWC trophy.
Wales, playing in a first semi final since the inaugural tournament in 2008, started brightly and moved into a 6-0 lead courtesy of two penalties by wing Tom Prydie, who had kicked the winning penalty to create history in the pool stages.
Ihaia West missed his first kick at goal but by the half hour mark the scores were level and New Zealand were starting to look dangerous, threatening the Welsh line with regularity but it was not until two minutes before time that they hit the front with Jimmy Tupou’s try.
The relief was evident among the Baby Blacks, and they picked up where they left off just two minutes into the second half when Matt Proctor found Jason Emery, the centre simply unstoppable from five metres out.
Wales not finished yet
Wales continued to battle bravely but New Zealand had a head steam and scored a third try when quick hands saw the ball reach Jordan Taufua and the number 8 dived over the in corner, managing to avoid both the touchline and the defence.
New Zealand’s final try came just past the hour mark when Ofa Tu’ungafasi picked the ball up from the base of the ruck and powered over from close range, the Welsh unable to stop the rampaging prop.
“We always knew that Wales were going to come and fight, they are very, very passionate – just like New Zealand they are very passionate for their rugby – so we knew that first 20 minutes were very important trying to weather that storm,” admitted co-captain Bryn Hall.
“Those two tries just before and just after half time were very crucial for us. We talked about it a lot through the week saying that last 10 minutes and first 10 minutes around half time were very important.
“I reckon considering it was semi final football, I think the boys played really, really well, but there’s always improvements. Still a few things to work on, but overall performance for a semi final against Wales, we are very, very happy.”
Wales coach Danny Wilson admitted his team hadn’t “performed anywhere near the accuracy that we have in this tournament” against a New Zealand side putting them under pressure, but has already seen a positive response from his players.
“I asked the boys just now and the answer was exactly what I wanted and that was to end third in the tournament, third in the world will be a hell of an achievement and a lot to play for and one that we are motivated for.”
Home advantage inspires Junior Boks
Wales will face Argentina in that third place play-off after the Pumitas came unstuck against a South African inspired by their vocal supporters in the historic stadium, the Junior Boks scoring four tries in the win.
Handre Pollard kicked South Africa into a seventh minute lead and they were never headed, Argentina captain Sebastián Poet missing two penalty attempts in quick succession which would come back to haunt his side when Jan Serfontein powered over for a 21st minute try.
Things got worse for Argentina when hooker Mark Pretorius and Raymond Rhule, an early replacement for Paul Jordaan, also touched down before half time to give South Africa a comfortable 22-0 lead at half time.
The rain began to fall on Newlands in the second half but despite Poet getting Argentina on the board with an early penalty there was to be no way back for Los Pumitas with the impressive Rhule racing in for his second try in the 52nd minute.
“Argentina were not in the semis for nothing, they worked to be there and they played very well throughout the tournament and we had our job cut out for us,” admitted coach Dawie Theron. “We love to play in front of our home crowd at home, and we're a very proud rugby nation and yes, we knew that we had to get the blend right and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves.”
The Argentinean players were in tears after the match with Poet admitting: “We didn't perform well, it wasn't our game, they were physically superior. They have a good team and the luck was with them, but wanted to turn the luck around and are very sad for the result.
“Today we didn't play with the same mentality we had in the previous games but it has still been a positive experience for us.”
Right to the wire at Newlands
Argentina are still guaranteed their best ever finish in a Junior World Championship despite the loss, while Wales can at worst better the fourth place in 2008, but the same cannot be said for Australia and England after they lost to France and Ireland respectively on Sunday.
France had comfortably beaten Australia 31-7 in round three, but the sides came face to face again at Newlands for the right to secure a top six finish at JWC 2012 and played out a much more competitive battle with the lead changing hands four times in the second half.
Eric Escande kicked the only points of the first half with three penalties to give France a 9-0 lead with Australia fly half Kyle Godwin missing three kicks at goal, attempts which would ultimately prove costly come the final whistle.
Matt Lucas, a Tokyo Sevens Cup winner with Australia at the beginning of April, finally got Australia on the board in the 56th minute and the match had been turned on its head within two minutes when the scrum half converted Lindsay Crook’s try to give his side a 10-9 lead.
Replacement Jean Charles Fidende returned from the sin-bin to edge France back in front again with their only try of the match, but Australia hit back almost immediately when full back Nicholas Frisby ghosted through the defence to make it 17-16.
However, just when it looked like Australia could avenge their pool loss, replacement Thomas Laranjeira – who arrived in South Africa last week as an injury replacement – calmly slotted a drop goal seven minutes from time to seal a 19-17 victory.
Ireland claim elusive scalp
France will now face Ireland who avenged their loss to England in the pool stages in impressive fashion, racing into a 17-0 half-time lead courtesy of tries from wing Barry Daly and flanker Iain Henderson and seven points from the boot of fly half JJ Hanrahan.
Ireland had led 15-3 at half time in round two but had allowed England back into the match to snatch the victory. This time they were in no mood to do the same, despite English captain Chris Walker scoring a try within minutes of the restart.
Ill-discipline though proved England’s downfall with Walker and replacement Marland Yarde both spending time in the sin-bin, Ireland capitalising with a third try of the night from flanker Jordon Coghlan. England did score a consolation try through Henry Slade, but Ireland had their win.
“It is disappointing, they’re a strong side, we swept past them last time and when we beat them in Six Nations it was tough,” admitted England coach Rob Hunter. “That’s what you get from an Ireland side, they go for 80 all the time and with most teams in this competition if you don't get yourself right mentally then you are going to beaten. We certainly didn't get it today, certainly not in the first half."
“Nobody wants to lose, and I'm sure the Aussies won't want to lose. It’s been a tough tournament for both teams, very disappointing in terms of the expectations coming in but we've got one more game and it's our job to get back on the pitch and put things right for Friday.”
Ireland captain Niall Scannell added: “It was excellent, we've lost to this team twice, it's the only team we've lost to all year. We just thought we needed to do ourselves justice and close this one off and we did it thankfully, credit to all the lads, they were absolutely outstanding tonight.”
Samoa discover scoring touch
The action on day four had earlier kicked off at the University of Western Cape Stadium with Scotland and Italy seeking a first win in the competition which would guarantee their place at Junior World Championship 2013 in France.
Italy opened the scoring with a drop goal by John Apperley, but Scotland hit back with tries from their impressive number 8 Mitch Eadie and wing Jamie Farndale. Italy hit back with an intercept try for Giulio Bisegni but Finn Russell ensured Scotland would go in leading at half time.
Eadie increased that advantage with his second try within minutes of the restart and, although David Odiete scored a second try for the Azzurrini, there was no way back with Farndale’s second try securing a 34-17 win and a ninth place play-off against Samoa.
The battle for Pacific Island pride was always going to be a physical affair and looked like heading Fiji’s way again, just as their Pool A meeting had in round two, after a Michael Little penalty and conversion of Aca Simolo’s try in the first half hour.
However Samoa suddenly sparked into life with Robert Lilomaiava stepping his way through the defence to score his side’s first try of the tournament, the centre discovering his scoring touch after being scoring nine in last year’s IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy success in Georgia.
Samoa then went the length of the field to score one of the tries of the tournament so far, a Sevens feel about the move with passes flicked out the back of hands before Peter Schuster touched down to give the Samoans a 14-10 lead at half time.
Fiji were rocked again when wing Utu Poliko scored within minutes of the restart and, while Fiji scored a second try through Joketani Raikabula, there was no way back with Samoa’s other wing Fomai Ah Ki gathering his own kick down the touchline to score his side’s fourth try.