On another day of high-scoring matches at the Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf in Bucharest, Fiji defeated Samoa 58-8 in a one-sided final to win promotion to the World Rugby U20 Championship for the first time since 2014.
Despite being previously unbeaten at this level, Samoa were no match for their Pacific rivals whose marvellous performance earns them the right to play against the elite in international age-grade rugby in Argentina next year.
True to form, Fiji served up a feast of running rugby and scored nine tries to help take the overall tally on the day past 50.
Earlier in the day, Portugal followed up their runners-up finish in 2017 with third place after a 67-36 win over Namibia. Uruguay also hit new heights in beating Hong Kong 78-17 to claim fifth place, while Canada condemned Romania to last place with an equally emphatic 71-14 victory.
SAMOA 8-58 FIJI
Inspired by full-back Nabetelevu Turaganivalu and centres Vilimoni Botitu and Ilikena Vudogo, Fiji were irrepressible in attack as they ruthlessly capitalised on basic Samoan errors, of which there were many, to put the two-time champions to the sword.
Samoa’s lack of patience in attack and high turnover rate hurt them badly and Fiji could even afford to lose a man to the sin-bin in each half as they recorded the biggest win in the history of U20 Trophy finals.
Turaganivalu set up Botitu for the first and then scored himself, after hitting a great line from deep, as Fiji racked up a 14-0 lead despite playing with 14 men.
The long-striding Turaganivalu added a penalty to his two conversions before Samoa finally got on the scoreboard when Simon Toleafoa punished a Fijian high tackle with three points from the kicking tee.
With five minutes of the half to go, Ratu Meli Turagaca squeezed over in the corner to make Samoa’s task that much harder and atone for his earlier yellow card.
The expected second-half onslaught from 2011 and 2016 winners Samoa failed to materialise and Fiji soon scored again, through Botitu, to have one hand firmly on the trophy.
Scrum-half Simione Kuruvoli sniped over from close range to make the score 34-3 before Viliame Rokobuli used his power to bump off three would-be defenders on his way to the line.
Fellow winger Tira Patterson then spent 10 minutes on the sidelines for another high tackle but, still, Samoa could not find a way through.
A brilliant solo effort from Vudogo added to Samoa’s woes but they did get a consolation five minutes from time when back-row Anthony Shammah-Solomona, one of their brightest performers on the day, charged down the right flank and forced his way over.
However, the final say deservedly belonged to Fiji when Vudogo brilliantly claimed the restart to set up flanker Ratu Meli, and there was still time for replacement Joseph Mar to cross over unopposed.
NAMIBIA 36-67 PORTUGAL
Portugal signed off with a superb 11-try performance as they passed the 50-point mark for the first time in U20 Trophy history.
Os Lobinhos bossed the third-place play-off from start to finish and not even a late flurry of tries from Namibia could disguise the gulf between the sides.
Manuel Pinto’s double from full-back plus a try by hooker Nuno Mascarenhas put Portugal on the front foot from the off, even though all three scores went unconverted.
Namibia hit back through second-row Wynand Breytenbach on 22 minutes to close the gap to eight points at 15-7 and the game looked wide open again.
However, fly-half Joao Lima finally found his range to land some difficult kicks as Portugal resumed control with tries from forwards Jose Roque, Duarte Campos and captain Joao Vital in a devastating eight-minute spell just before the break.
A 60-metre break from Manuel Marta set Portugal on their way to try number seven, scored by Duarte Goncalves, before impressive scrum-half Martim Cardoso deservedly got his name on the scoresheet.
A penalty from Delron Brandt put Namibia into double figures but Campos’ second soon followed to bring up Portugal’s half-century.
A breathless final quarter saw Namibia go down fighting with a double for pacey winger Rudi Pretorius sandwiched by scores from Gerhard Opperman and Gilad Plaatjies.
Portugal also contributed to the frenetic finish with further tries of their own, hooker Mascarenhas spinning out of a tackle for his second while second-row Manuel Peleteiro’s was rewarded for a solid 80-minute performance.
HONG KONG 17-78 URUGUAY
Uruguay scored at will to claim fifth place against a Hong Kong side already guaranteed their best finish at the World Rugby U20 Trophy.
Los Teritos ruthlessly punished Hong Hong’s suspect defence, scoring seven tries – all from different players – in a totally one-sided first half. Six of those came in the first quarter alone with lively winger Juan Torres starting the ball rolling in the second minute.
Hooker Emiliano Faccennini dotted down from the back of a rolling maul for Uruguay’s second, but most of the damage was being caused in midfield and the wide channels as Los Teritos continued to run amok.
Fly-half Juan Cattivelli finished off a slick handling move and converted his own try before Valentin Grille, Baltazar Amaya and Mateo Vinals added their names to the scoresheet to put Uruguay 36-0 up inside 19 minutes.
With the game already won, Uruguay were guilty of overplaying their hand for the remainder of the half and could only manage one more score before the break, tight-head Reinaldo Piussi rumbling over from a well-worked lineout move.
Credit to Hong Kong, they came out fighting at the start of the second period. After Shiven Dukhande struck early, fellow winger Sam Down scored twice, the second after a spectacular dive in the corner, either side of Uruguay’s eighth try which came from Cattivelli’s pinpoint cross-field kick.
In the closing stages, normal service was resumed with tries from Cesar Riviere, James McCubbin and a Manuel Ardao double taking Los Teritos to within three points of their all-time record U20 Trophy score.
ROMANIA 14-71 CANADA
Even without injured leading point scorer Will Percillier, Canada had far too much quality for Romania in a one-sided seventh-place play-off.
Half-back Percillier had contributed over half his side’s points in the pool stages of the competition but the rest of the team stepped up to the mark on the final day as Canada avoided the ignominy of suffering their worst finish in the competition with a record win.
Winger John McCarthy and centre Kevin Vertkas grabbed two tries apiece while replacement kicker Brennig Prevost contributed 21 points through a try and eight conversions.
Relishing the firm pitch and sunny conditions, Canada’s backs had too much gas and guile for Romania and it only took five minutes for them to open their account through Vertkas.
Soon after, his opposite number Sebastian Sirbu replied in kind but that proved to be a temporary blip for the North Americans who proceeded to carve open the home side’s defence at almost every opportunity.
McCarthy and full-back Elias Ergas were next on the scoresheet before flanker Peter Ingoldsby got one for the forwards as Canada established a 26-7 lead approaching the half-hour mark.
Rounding off an impressive first 40, winger Josiah Morra picked off a stray Romania pass inside the home 22 for an easy intercept score and McCarthy easily outpaced the covering defence for his second.
Romania scored first at the start of the second period through Cristian Bumbac, but it was all Canada from then on in with Vertkas completing his double. Jack McRogers, Prevost, captain James O’Neill and Reid Davis also contributed to the victory.