A spirited England Under 20 side – that contained Worcester duo Matt Kvesic and Andy Short – were unable to complete their Italian job after suffering final heartache against New Zealand, losing 33-22 in Padova, Italy.
A brutish display from Rob Hunter’s side ensured England were always within touching distance of their southern hemisphere rivals, but clinical finishing from the Baby Blacks cost England dear.
England’s three tries came from London Wasps wing Christian Wade, who grabbed a brace, and Sale Sharks prop Henry Thomas. Leicester Tigers fly half George Ford kicked the other seven points.
England had started much the brighter of the two sides, displaying their intent from the off and took the lead with six minutes on the clock. A smart run by Saracens No. 12 Owen Farrell opened space up for Wade out wide, and when Farrell found the Wasps man, he made no mistake in going over for his sixth try of the competition, with Ford adding the extras to make it 7-0.
New Zealand almost hit back with 22 minutes played when a kick from Saracens full back Ben Ransom was charged down and the Kiwis forced the ball out wide, but an excellent cover tackle by Thomas pushed the player into touch and the try was disallowed by the TV Match Official.
However , they did get onto the scoreboard when South African referee Jaco Peyper penalised England for an offside in the same passage of play and fly half Gareth Anscombe scored to make the score 7-3. With the momentum in their favour, the Kiwis went over for their first try soon after, Charles Piutau scoring in the corner after Lima Sopoaga attacked the right hand side of the pitch where Worcester wing Andy Short lay injured, freeing up space to exploit.
Both sides then exchanged penalties to make the score 13-10 in New Zealand’s favour, and the Kiwi’s scored their second try of the game just before half time. Prop Ben Tameifuna forced his way over the try line, with Anscombe adding the extras to make the score 20-10 at half time.
England conceded a penalty early in the second half, Anscombe converting to make the score 23-10. Ford looked to reduce the deficit to ten with a penalty of his own, but his kick sailed marginally wide.
Just when New Zealand threatened to run away with the game, England began to dominate possession, causing New Zealand plenty of problems. England eventually turned their pressure into points when Thomas barged his way over the line to score a brilliant team try, making the score 23-17 after Ford’s conversion.
With 50 minutes on the clock, it was England’s turn to have a try disallowed. Worcester Warriors flanker Matt Kvesic dived over between the posts, but the TMO deemed the ball not to have been touched down.
England were certainly in the ascendancy at that point, and with the ball in hand always looked liked scoring. Their third try came on the hour through Wade, who kicked through to score after some excellent work by club mate Elliott Daly. Ford’s conversion would have given England the lead, but his kick went wide, leaving his side one point behond at 23-22.
A successful New Zealand penalty, again by Anscombe, soon after the restart made the score 26-22 and in the final ten minutes the Baby Blacks effectively put the game to bed when full back full back Beauden Barrett touched down a grubber to make the score 33-22. New Zealand then held out to win their fourth successive Junior World Championship.
Speaking after the game, England captain Alex Gray said that his side had a real chance in taking the trophy home: “It was a tough battle and I imagine it was quite good watching. We came here thinking we could take it and if things had been different way we could have done, but congratulations to New Zealand, they showed they are a class team and good luck to them.
“That was my last game in an England U20 jersey and it’s a shame we couldn’t end with a win, but we gave it everything and can be proud with ourselves, it’s been an honour playing with these lads. There’s no tomorrow for me, but I’m sure that the boys will give it their best shot next year. “
Points: Wade 2T, Thomas 1T ; Ford 2C, 1P.
England U20 team v New Zealand:
15) Ben Ransom (Saracens)
14) Andy Short (Worcester Warriors)
13) Elliot Daly (London Wasps)
12) Owen Farrell (Saracens)
11) Christian Wade (London Wasps)
10) George Ford (Leicester Tigers)
9) Chris Cook (Bath Rugby)
1) Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
2) Mikey Haywood (Northampton Saints)
3) Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks)
4) Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
5) Charlie Matthews (Harlequins)
6) Sam Jones (London Wasps)
7) Matt Kvesic (Worcester Warriors)
8) Alex Gray (Captain) (Newcastle Falcons)
16) Rob Buchanan (Harlequins) on for Mikey Haywood 73 mins
17) Will Collier (Harlequins) on for Henry Thomas 61 mins
18) Sam Twomey (Harlequins) on for Matt Kvesic 75 mins
19) Matt Everard (Leicester Tigers) on for Same Jones 73
20) Dan Robson (Gloucester Rugby) on for Chris Cook 61mins
21) Ryan Mills (Gloucester Rugby) on for Owen Farrell 49 mins
22) Marland Yarde (London Irish) on for Andy Short 43 mins