In a unified show of support for World Rugby’s anti-doping campaign, players, management and officials involved in the U20 Trophy wore dedicated Keep Rugby Clean t-shirts on a day when Samoa rewrote the record books on their way to reaching Sunday's title decider.
In defeating Uruguay 56-22, the 2011 champions racked up their highest ever score at the U20 Trophy. They will now play Pool B winners Spain, who defeated USA in Wednesday’s winner-takes-all finale, at the Harare Sports Club for the right to play in the World Rugby U20 Championship in 2017.
The third place play-off will be between Fiji and Namibia, who put Hong Kong to the sword. Uruguay and USA will contest fifth spot and host nation Zimbabwe face Hong Kong in a battle to avoid last place.
SAMOA 56-22 URUGUAY
The battle for top spot in Pool A and a place in Sunday’s final emphatically went the way of Samoa, who are now 80 minutes away from an immediate return to the World Rugby U20 Championship.
On this form Samoa will be hard to stop. They tore into the Uruguayans to score seven tries – all through different players, with four coming in a devastating 12-minute period after half-time.
Instigator-in-chief was fly-half D’Angelo Leuila, who enjoyed a fine game behind a dominant pack, scoring a try and kicking all seven conversions for a 20-point haul.
It was his neat footwork that opened up the Uruguayan defence for the first score, hooker Tu’uta Simalie supplying the finish after a series of pick and goes.
A good spell of pressure form Uruguay followed and after two attempts at a driving maul from penalties kicked to the corner had been repelled, second-row Juan Diego Quintero burrowed over. Luca Duran converted to bring the scores level.
Scrum-half Santiago Arata showed the Samoan defence a clean pair of heels with a blistering run down the right touchline as the first quarter drew to a close, but full-back Salesi Rayasi and centre Jonah Refiti got across in the nick of time to bundle him into touch a metre short of the line.
Samoa stepped it up a level and scored two more tries before the break through centre Augustine Mafoe, who jogged through unopposed from 20 metres, and second-row Mikaele Tipili after a good shove from a five-metre scrum had set Uruguay back on their heels.
Leuila started the second-half onslaught when he danced through a gaping hole in the Uruguayan defence within five minutes of the restart.
Full-back Rayasi was next to cross and he was quickly followed over the whitewash by right wing Laaloi Leiluai, who ran onto a switch pass from Leuila at pace to scythe through the defence.
Samoa were in no mood to let up and it took great scramble defence from Uruguay to prevent Leilau finishing off a devastating break down the right. The men in blue recycled the ball quickly and, having spotted Uruguay were desperately short of numbers out wide, they moved it left to leave number eight Tiumalu with the simplest of run-ins.
Credit to Uruguay, though, as they never gave up. Replacement Sebastien Pfeiff’s decision to go himself from a quickly-taken tap penalty was fully justified when he scored from five metres out to halt a run of 44 unanswered points against his team. Winger Martin Fitipaldo grabbed another consolation score with a well-taken finish eight minutes from time.
SPAIN 18-16 USA
Spain's fairytale debut at the U20 Trophy continued with a tense 18-16 victory over Pool B rivals USA taking them through to the final.
Brilliantly led by inspirational captain Jon Zabala, Spain showed few signs of nerves despite the prize at stake to open up a 16-0 lead.
Zabala's opposite number Hanco Germishuys scored twice inside the last quarter in another highly impressive display as the USA fought their way back into the contest, but ultimately it was centre Andrea Rabagao’s second-half penalty that separated the sides in the lowest-scoring match of the Trophy to date.Defence was most definitely on top in the early stages as the sea of Spanish red jerseys refused to part in the face of a determined onslaught on their line from the Junior All-Americans.
Even when Spain found themselves down to 14 men, after centre Inaki Spuches Mateu had been sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle on full-back Mitch Wilson, the USA were unable to find a way through.Their sense of frustration was only heightened when Spain took the lead after 29 minutes. The European U19 champions had already threatened the USA line once through full-back Jordi Jorba Jorge, who was bundled into touch two metres short, before they latched onto a dropped pass in midfield to fashion a good team try for Jaime Mata. Rabagao added the extras and those were the last points of the first half.
Spain doubled their lead five minutes after the restart when hooker Vincent Delhoyo touched down from a lineout catch-and-drive move and Rabagao turned the six points into eight with the conversion.
USA sensed their hopes of making the final were slipping away and Germishuys took it upon himself to lead the fight-back.
With the penalty count starting to mount against Spain, USA pressure was finally converted into points when second-row Deven Marshall took clean lineout ball and Germishuys forced his way over from close range on the hour mark.
Spain sensibly opted to go for goal instead of the corner when presented with a penalty on 77 minutes, and ultimately it was that decision – and Rabagao’s trusty boot –which won them the game because Germishuys’ seventh try of the tournament in the last play of the game and Ben Cima's conversion still left USA two points short.
FIJI 42-22 ZIMBABWE
Day three of the World Rugby U20 Trophy had earlier kicked off with the proverbial game of two halves as hosts Zimbabwe fought back well in the second 40 after being overrun by Fiji before the interval.
Fiji had the bonus point in the bag inside the opening 24 minutes after tries from Vuniani Mokalou, Filimoni Savou, Liam James Narruhn and Savenaca Tabaiwalu. But the Young Sables stuck to their task admirably to ‘win’ the second half, 16-12, thanks to converted tries from Kudakwashe Ndoro and replacement prop Justin Mendelsohn.
Keen to put the disappointment of Saturday’s 32-8 loss to Samoa firmly behind them, Fiji came out in determined mood and attacked straight from the word go.
Receiving the kick-off in their 22, some irresistible inter-play between backs and forwards took the Fijians into Zimbabwean territory and the move was only stopped in its tracks when Sam Phiri took out fellow winger Viliame Tuidrak with a high tackle. The penalty was kicked to the corner and Zimbabwe, despite winning turnover ball, were unable to clear their lines properly. From the a five-metre scrum, Fiji drove towards the try-line and after a few phases hooker Vuniani Mokalou wriggled his way over.
Whenever Zimbabwe moved the ball right they looked dangerous and an attack started by the outside backs ended in a wonderful 12th-minute try for industrious captain Connor Pritchard who was up in support to take the final pass from livewire scrum-half Takudzwa Gamanya.
Four minutes later, Fiji showcased their sublime offloading skills to put captain Savou in for another stunning try.
Long-striding number eight Narruhn crossed for the third after spotting a gap in the Zimbabwe defence, before fellow back-rower Tabaiwalu latched onto a spilt pass and used his blistering pace to outstrip the defence to score from 50 metres out.
Having scored 22 points without reply all the momentum was with Fiji but they, like Zimbabwe, couldn’t find any fluency in their game in a scoreless third quarter.
Brazilian referee Ricardo Sant’Anna’s whistle sounded once again on the hour mark as Fiji replacement Josaia Raboiliku was punished for a dangerous tackle with a spell in the sin-bin just two minutes after he’d entered the field of play.
Buoyed by their numerical advantage, Zimbabwe finally looked after the ball long enough to string some phases together. Good passing along the line from replacement forward Tinashe Muchena and fly-half Tadiwa Gochera led to second-row Ndoro striding over on 64 minutes.
In a rare foray into the opposition 22, Fiji spun the ball wide to replacement second-row Selesitino Kalouivale, who carried Zimbabwe defender Mudiwa Manhombo over the line with him for his side’s fifth try.
More poor defending from Fiji allowed Zimbabwe to pull six points back through super-sub Mendelsohn but it was the Islanders who concluded the scoring when Wame Waqanaceva finished from close range in stoppage time.
NAMIBIA 70-8 HONG KONG
Namibia inflicted a record World Rugby U20 Trophy defeat on Hong Kong with a ruthless display of finishing.
Hong Kong had no answer to the physicality of the Africans, who ran in four tries in each half to register their highest score in the competition for seven years.
Winger Unomasa Kavita and flanker Johan de Klerk scored a brace of tries apiece and fly-half Cliven Loubser contributed 22 points through a try and eight conversions.
Hong Kong’s only response came eight minutes from time when tight-head Callum Smith crashed over from close range.
It only took Namibia six minutes to score the first try of the game. Scrum-half Jerome Beukes broke off the base of a scrum and combined with centre Alastair Miller to put in Kavita who had just enough room to touch down in the left hand corner. Loubser converted brilliantly from the touchline to set the tone for a day when he simply couldn’t miss from the tee.
Kavita’s fellow wing Gino Wilson got in on the act on 26 minutes to open up a 14-0 lead and centre Hillian Beukes added another, shortly after Hong Kong had had a try disallowed for a foot in touch, when he ran a good angle and hit the line at pace to score by the posts.
Two more tries followed in the space of three minutes as Stiaan van der Merwe was followed over the whitewash by De Klerk, after Namibia won turnover ball inside the Hong Kong 22.
Hong Kong thought they’d finally got on the board in the dying seconds of the half when Hugo Stiles dived over in the corner following a series of forward drives but the assistant referee had spotted an act of foul play in the build-up and awarded a penalty against them instead.
Within four minutes of the restart Namibia were further in front thanks to Kavita’s second, which was once again brilliantly converted from wide out.
By now Hong Kong were guilty of falling off tackles as the intensity of Namibia’s play and greater size began to become all too apparent, and replacement Sam Kuvare brought up the half-century when he peeled off the back of a rolling maul to score try number six.
Loubser finished off his own break to score with 15 minutes remaining to run further salt into Hong Kong’s wounds.
The first blot on an otherwise flawless afternoon for Namibia came when De Klerk was yellow-carded by referee Fa’avae Neru for not rolling away as Hong Kong pressed hard for their first points. The penalty was taken quickly and Smith barged through Loubser’s attempted tackle and dotted down by the posts.
De Klerk rounded off an eventful 80 minutes by scoring his second with the last play of the game.
Photo credit: Marie-Louise van der Sandt