New Zealand sent an ominous warning to their World Rugby U20 Championship 2017 rivals with a third impressive victory at the Oceania Rugby U20 Championship on Saturday, this time 43-6 over hosts Australia in the title decider.
Having already swept aside Fiji (63-3) and Samoa (80-23) with their brand of free-flowing rugby, New Zealand again showed why they will be a side to watch in Georgia later this month with a display that was just too strong, two skilful and too fast for the Australians to handle.
Australia had opened the scoring with Harry Nucifora’s early penalty amid a promising start, but New Zealand’s response was swift with their impressive captain Luke Jacobson diving over after coming off the back of a dominant scrum.
Fly-half Tiaan Falcon increased the lead with a penalty and New Zealand’s pace and power saw them cross for three further tries before half-time through second-row Isaia Walker-Leawere, full-back Will Jordan and centre Tamati Ruka Tua to make it 29-6.
Australia’s cause wasn’t helped when Nucifora was sin-binned late in the first half and New Zealand picked up where they left off after the restart with Tom Christie touching down before number eight Jacobson crossed for his second try of the match.
“New Zealand was a really good side. Their catch and pass was good, as was their running lines which is probably the area that let us down,” admitted Australia coach Simon Cron.
Cron names his final 28-man squad for the World Rugby U20 Championship on Sunday, before they reassemble at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra on Wednesday to fine-tune preparations for a tournament in which they will face defending champions England, Samoa and Wales in Pool A.
“I am looking forward to some time with the lads at the AIS in Canberra. This camp has been tough on the boys, three games in 10 days and our one, three, six and eight played almost every minute this tournament and that’s tough. However, it will make them more resilient in their ability to play more minutes.”
New Zealand will face Ireland, Italy and Scotland in Pool B as they seek a sixth title at this level.
SAMOA FINISH STRONGLY
Meanwhile, Samoa scored four late tries to seal a 39-29 come from behind victory over Fiji to finish third in the standings and give their preparations of the World Rugby U20 Championship a boost.
Samoa, who return to the U20 Championship after winning its sister event, the U20 Trophy last year, had looked out of it at 22-10 down at half-time but bravely battled back.
They crossed for five tries in all with Pupi Ah See scoring two of them, while full-back Ricky Ene caught the eye with the boot, converting four tries and adding three penalties.
Fiji had dominated much of the first 60 minutes at Bond University, but couldn’t see it through. They can now look forward to August, when they will contest the World Rugby U20 Trophy in Uruguay in the hope of succeeding Samoa as champions to earn a return to the elite tier in 2018.