World Rugby U20 Trophy: The story so far
With the World Rugby U20 Trophy finally returning in 2023 after a four-year absence, we take a stroll down memory lane to look back at the 12 previous editions of the age-grade competition.
Few people who tuned into the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2019 would have been left disappointed – unless they were Portugal fans perhaps.
Right from the first whistle in São José dos Campos, the 2019 U20 Trophy was a tournament packed with excitement as matches ebbed and flowed and tries rained down.
Ultimately, it was Japan who reigned supreme, beating a Portugal team boasting future Os Lobos stars Jerónimo Portela, Raffaele Storti and Rodrigo Marta to claim their third U20 Trophy title.
Following a wait of four years, Japan will take their place in the U20 Championship when it gets underway in South Africa on Saturday. This is the story of how they got there.
The tournament got off to a stunning start as Tonga marked their first appearance in the U20 Trophy for four years with victory, despite Canada’s best efforts.
Tonga led 26-10 early in the second half but were made to endure an anxious final five minutes as Canada narrowed the deficit to a single point. Will Matthews’ late try gave Thomas Isherwood a chance to win the Pool B encounter with the final kick, however, his conversion was unsuccessful.
Japan – who had been relegated from the U20 Championship in 2018 – kicked off their Pool A campaign with an eight-try 56-24 defeat of debutants Brazil in which Shota Fukui and Futo Yamaguchi each crossed the whitewash twice.
In the other match in their pool, Uruguay ran in nine tries to beat Kenya 63-11 while Portugal ended the day top of Pool B following a 59-27 win against Hong Kong China, in which Storti scored a hat-trick.
Match-day two began with another win for Tonga, albeit a more comfortable one as they posted 10 tries to beat Hong Kong China 64-12.
Portugal kept pace with the Tongans in Pool B and electric winger Storti was on the scoresheet once again, touching down twice in a six-try 49-21 defeat of Canada.
Japan remained the team to beat in Pool A, meanwhile, giving themselves a cushion at the top of the standings with a 46-31 win against Uruguay.
But hosts Brazil suffered heartache at the end of their match against Kenya. Despite outscoring their opponents four tries to two, they lost 26-24 as Dominic Coulson kicked his fourth penalty of the match in the final play.
On the final day of the pool stage, Portugal took on Tonga with the winner topping Pool B and taking their place in the final.
The Portuguese proved too strong as Storti crossed twice more to help his side to a comfortable 40-3 victory at Estadio Martins Pereira.
Canada had earlier ended their campaign with a comprehensive 78-26 win against Hong Kong China, in which Lachlan Kratz scored a hat-trick and Will Percillier went one better, notching four tries.
There was another hat-trick in the penultimate match of day three, Halatoa Vailea crossing three times in the first half to help Japan on their way to a 48-34 win against Kenya.
The Japanese were grateful to his contribution in a match that was in the balance until the closing stages, by which time they had been reduced to 14 players and their opponents 13.
Victory confirmed Japan’s place in the final against Portugal, and Uruguay made sure of second in Pool A as they beat the hosts 52-10 in the final match of day three.
In keeping with an action-packed tournament, the 2019 final began with fireworks as Japan scored two tries in the opening 10 minutes, through Tamakasa Maruo and Vailea.
Both were converted by Ryuto Fukuyama, but they were soon pegged back as first Rodrigo Marta and then David Costa crossed the whitewash. By the time Costa went over, Japan had lost Ryosuke Kawase to the sin bin and Storti would grab Portugal’s third try while the full-back was off the field.
Japan were momentarily reduced to 13 players on the stroke of half-time as Fukuyama received a yellow card and a Jerónimo Portela penalty early in the second half stretched Portugal’s lead to 24-14.
The Japanese comeback began when Fukuyama converted Mamoru Harada’s 49th-minute try to cut the deficit to three points but it was back up to eight when Storti touched down for a record-equalling ninth time in Brazil.
Japan were awarded a penalty try with less than 15 minutes to go, to draw within a point and although Francisco Salgado subsequently crossed the whitewash for Portugal, Portela missed the conversion to leave the match delicately poised.
It meant Japan would retake the lead with a converted try and they duly produced one as Kawase went over and Fukuyama added the extras to put them in front with time running out.
Portugal were unable to find a response, enabling Japan to secure their third U20 Trophy title and a place in the next U20 Championship.
Earlier on day four, Tonga withstood a late fight back from Uruguay to win the third-place play-off 29-27.
Apitoni Toia scored two of his side’s four tries but Matías D’Avanzo had an opportunity to level the scores after Juan Martín Rippe went over in the final minute. The fly-half’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful, however.
Canada ran in eight tries, meanwhile, to make sure of fifth place with a 52-13 defeat of Kenya while hosts Brazil finished on a high, beating Hong Kong China 32-29 to secure seventh place.