England withstood a second-half fight back to beat Italy 27-17 and claim the Six Nations U20 2021 Grand Slam at Cardiff Arms Park on Tuesday.
Alan Dickens’ side required only a bonus point to win a ninth age-grade Championship, but had their sights set on a clean sweep and made a fast start in the Welsh capital.
Orlando Bailey and Jack Bates each crossed the Italian goal line in the opening 15 minutes, as England built an early 17-0 lead.
That remained the scoreline at half-time, but after Arthur Relton had touched down his fifth try of the Championship three minutes after the restart, Italy grew into the match.
The Azzurrini struck twice within seven minutes as front-row forwards Ion Neculai and Thomas Di Bartolomeo breached the England defence and cut the deficit to just five points.
But, Italy paid for indiscipline in the final quarter. Nicola Piantella and Flavio Pio Vaccari were sent to the sin-bin, either side of Relton’s second try of the match.
It was fitting that Relton, who finished the Six Nations U20 2021 with six tries in five matches, provided the finishing touch to a deserved Grand Slam.
“That was a tough game for us today. We were probably a touch tired, certainly in that second half, and fair play to Italy as they made us earn that win today,” England coach Dickens said.
“This season the players have had to show that grit because of the circumstances they’ve faced. You saw today they wanted to play rugby and I’ve seen that throughout the season.”
Elsewhere, World Rugby U20 Championship holders France recovered from an early Killian Tixeront yellow card to beat Ireland 34-28 and seal second place.
Thibaut Debaes, Pierre Bochaton, Paul Mallez and Louis Bielle Biarre each touched down in the win, while Nolann Le Garrec added 14 points with his boot.
In the final match of the Championship hosts Wales secured a second victory of the tournament as they beat winless Scotland 32-24.
Christ Tshiunza, Joe Hawkins and Cameron Jones all crossed the whitewash in the first period, and a second-half penalty try proved decisive.
Photo credit: Huw Evans Agency