Four teams – New Zealand, Australia, France and England – are riding high near the summit of Division A after picking up their second successive wins at the IRB Under-19 World Championship on Monday.
France showed their durability by edging out South Africa on a 17-8 score line at Ravenhill. The Baby ‘Boks had plenty to prove, as France had beaten them 42-3 at last year’s tournament in Dubai.
But full-back Mathieu Belie kicked France into a early lead and his tactical kicking was vital throughout the first half. A defensive mix-up by the ‘Boks allowed French captain Morgan Parra to cross under the posts with Belie making it a seven-pointer.
The ‘Boks pack laid the platform for winger Stephan Dippenaar to reply with a try of his own in the 20th-minute. Yet France managed to get in for their second try just before the break, when centre Mathieu Bastareaud beat two tacklers to score and allow Belie to convert his side into as 17-5 advantage.
The only points of a dour second half came from a penalty from South African centre Stefan Watermeyer.
South Africa face hosts Ireland in a must-win tie at Ravenhill on Friday, with the winners possibly going through to the semi-finals. The Irish, thanks to a late converted try from centre Eoin O’Malley, secured a 13-12 win over Scotland for their first success of the competition.
2006 champions Australia made it two wins out of two when they beat Fiji 23-12 at Shaw’s Bridge, allow the Fiijians snapped into a surprise early lead.
Left winger Henry Speight won the race to his own chip kick, with the bounce deceiving covering player Peter Betham, to notch a try after only two minutes’ play.
Australia took their time in replying as Fiji dominated possession for long spells, but the champions exploited some space on the left flank for Andrew Barrett to ghost over.
Just on the stroke of half-time, the Aussies hit the front with winger Blair Connor making the corner for a 10-5 score line.
Off a set scrum move, Barrett darted over for his second try of the match, making use of some impressive handling from his fellow backs. Connor also bagged his second touch down, just seven minutes the second half, and Fiji were in danger of slipping out of contention. Scrum half Peni Rokodiva did manage to burst through for a second Fijian try, set up by the electric running of Ratu Natubavivi Kasami, but a late penalty from number 9 Jeremy Su’a made certain of the Australian victory.
Also at Shaw’s Bridge, Wales recovered from their opening day defeat to New Zealand to record a 33-20 triumph over Samoa. The young Dragons ran in tries through flanker Jevon Groves, winger Leigh Halfpenny (2) and centre Rhys Williams to tee up the much-needed win.
Halfpenny, who attends Swansea College, finished with a personal haul of 23 points as he kicked three penalties and two conversions. The Samoans ended the game with 14 men as their hooker Atenai Ali was red carded for stamping.
London Wasps back rower Hugo Ellis continued his scoring streak as England squeezed past South American champions Argentina by 17-15 at Belfast Harlequins’ Deramore Park ground.
Ellis nabbed his seventh try in four games, while Newcastle centre Alex Tait, brother of England senior player Mathew Tait, also touched down in the English side’s second straight win on Irish soil. Full-back Alex Goode, who plays for Saracens, landed two conversions and a penalty to complete the victors’ total.
Winger Poet Belmonte sped over from 20 metres out for Argentina’s only first half try – they trailed 14-5 at the break. Nicolas Sanchez, who missed a simple penalty in the first half, made amends after the break with a well-flighted penalty to cancel out a Goode kick.
Fifteen minutes from the finish, the young Pumas upped the ante by scoring their second try through replacement Guillermo Roan, with Sanchez’s successful conversion cutting the gap to just two points.
However, England wound down the clock in the closing ten minutes to hold onto the lead and a precious four points in the pool stage battle.
New Zealand ran in a record 17 tries to demolish an outclassed Japanese side 107-6 in a Deramore Park mismatch. The result means the Baby Blacks are top of the pile ahead of Friday’s final round of the pool stages.
Luke Braid (2), Jackson Willison, Liukanasi Manu, Sean Maitland, Daniel Kirkpatrick, Israel Dagg, team captain Winston Stanley, Paea Fa’anunu and Zach Guildford all touched down for New Zealand in the opening half.
Out-half Kirkpatrick kicked seven conversions in all, adding to the tries he scored in each half, for a personal tally of 24 points. Takaya Iida kicked a 29th-minute for Japan while Keisuke Masuda landed a a drop goal in the second half.
The Baby Blacks led 64-3 at half-time, and they added seven second half tries through Kirkpatrick, Maitland, Manu, Braid, who was completing his hat-trick, Kade Poki (2) and Quentin MacDonald.
Having lost 90-10 to New Zealand twelve months ago, this was another cruching blow for Japan and all their focus will now go towards trying to beat Samoa at Deramore Park on Friday – both sides are without a win so far.
IRB U-19 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP – DIVISION A DAY TWO RESULTS:
South Africa 8 France 17, Ravenhill
New Zealand 107 Japan 6, Belfast Harlequins
Samoa 20 Wales 33, Shaw’s Bridge
Argentina 15 England 17, Belfast Harlequins
Scotland 12 Ireland 13, Ravenhill
Australia 23 Fiji 12, Shaw’s Bridge
DIVISION A NEXT FIXTURES:
– Friday, April 13 –
Scotland v Fiji, Shaw’s Bridge, 5.30pm
New Zealand v England, Ravenhill, 5.30pm
Samoa v Japan, Belfast Harlequins, 5.30pm
Argentina v Wales, Shaw’s Bridge, 7.30pm
Australia v France, Belfast Harlequins, 7.30pm
South Africa v Ireland, Ravenhill, 7.30pm