World Rugby U20s Championship England through to Semi’s

England beating Australia in Brisbane a mere four days ago was still fresh in the minds of English supporters in a great crowd at the AJ Bell stadium on Wednesday. You could hear the murmur of excitement and confidence as the teams took to the field.

The noise changed dramatically when the Australian backs tore a hole through the English defence after less than 30 seconds. The move was perfect, scored by the full back Maddocks but instigated by the wonderfully named Mack Mason at Fly Half. We will be mentioning him again but not just because we like saying Mack Mason. Mack Mason.

As so often happens though the resultant kick off lead to a penalty to England and Harry Mallinder slotted it over to bring the score back to 3 – 7 with 2 minutes played.

World Rugby U20 Championship Eng v AusEngland handled their restart marginally better and returned the ball into the Aussie half but the pressure ended in an Australian scrum where England were penalised allowing Mason to kick to touch in England’s half. Mercer of Bath soared and stole the ball at line out and Mallinder then boomed it down the pitch into the Australian 22. The lad can kick. This lead to a good few minutes of pressure from England. The line out was safe and their driving maul looked drilled and comfortable trundling down towards the try line. The Australians could only give away a scrum. Mallinder and co tried a back move which didn’t quite come off but the referee was playing advantage from the scrum and brought them back. Mallinder kicked the penalty to touch and the driving maul was set up again. However strong Aussie tackles forced England back to the 22 until they got over enthusiastic and gave away a penalty which Mallinder missed. Still only 15 minutes played.

The opening exertion from both sides led to a scrappy mid first half with both sides conceding penalties and knocking balls on. However it was the Australian forwards led by their big lock Lukhan Lealaiaulolo-tui who were making the most ground. They played simply but impressively around the breakdown gradually punching up into the English half and earning a penalty. Mason nudged it over to take the score to 3 – 10.

This time Australia failed to deal with the restart comfortably and some English pressure in the Aussie half lead to a penalty which was taken quickly by scrum half Harry Randall which was unfortunately knocked on. However England dominated the scrum and were awarded the penalty which was duly converted by Mallinder. 6 – 10.

The rest of the half saw further strong Australian forward carries and some scrappy knock on’s from both sides. A Mack Mason penalty stretched the Wallaby lead to 6 – 13. The scrums were pretty even with neither side getting dominance and the referee obviously deciding to award penalties at the scrum on a 50/50 basis. The half ended with another English driving maul which was deemed illegal and the referee blew up. Half time 6 – 13 to Australia and on the balance of play probably about right.

England made one change during the break bringing Jack Singleton on at hooker replacing the Captain Jack Walker. The second half started in the same fashion with Australia playing hard simple rugby and gaining yards but after 5 minutes they knocked on and England packed down for the scrum. This was the moment that things changed. England won a penalty with a great scrum. Mallinder smashed the ball out to touch and with great line out ball England started playing. Randall was dishing out quick ball from the breakdown and the backs started to run.

Australia took Lealaiaulolo-tui off at 49 minutes and another lineout secured by the brilliant George Nott gave Randall an opportunity to snipe. He backed himself and was wiped out to the groans of England fans. Not in disappointment but more sympathy.

England continued to play in Australia’s half and Mallinder then showed his full range of skills with a beautifully weighted chip through for the charging Marchant to flop on and score. Mallinder missed the con but it was now game on! 11 – 13.

World Rugby U20 Championship Eng v AusThe substitutions by either side appeared to have contributed to the swing of the pendulum in England’s favour. Australia missed Lealaiaulolo-tui’s bulk and carries and Singleton shored up England’s scrum. Mistakes began to creep into Australia’s game and England appeared to settle down and play. At scrum time England were now getting on top and a couple of penalties moved them down the field. Randall although small in stature was playing big and continually looking to go fast and straight not allowing the Australian defence to reorganise. Eventually this combination led to Australia giving away a penalty at the breakdown and it was another 3 points to the Rosebuds (still not sure about that nickname) England led for the first time 14 -13 after 65 minutes.

England have looked good all tournament and this, in part, is down to their strength in depth. For the next 15 minutes the substitutions made by England seemed to galvanise them whereas the Australian subs did not seem to make an impact. The English forwards looked strong, winning line out ball and gradually edging the scrum battle. The backs were direct and Randall looked lively until he was subbed at 69 minutes. Malins came on at 10 and Mallinder was moved to 15 and he showed his tackling ability here after Mason ran a nice backs move to almost slip the Oz winger through.

England were in control now and despite the close score you knew that so long as there were no crazy “Botica” style mess ups they were in the Semis. One more penalty confirmed this and the game ended 17 – 13 to England. Top of the group, three wins and top seeds.

England face South Africa in the Semi Finals on Monday after they beat France in a high scoring but close game. The other Semi-final is Ireland v Argentina.

New Zealand, despite beating Wales, failed to get through to the Semis for the first time ever. They strangely face Wales again the 5th place playoff.

NU-Gen summary                    

Australia started brightly but dipped away in the second half making some poor errors. England’s bench made a big contribution and this was the difference in the end. Two hugely talented sides containing players with strong futures ahead.

NU-Gen MOM

Officially MOM was given to Mack Mason who thoroughly deserved it despite losing. However the much sought after Nu-Gen MOM award goes to Zach Mercer. He tackled brilliantly and was a line out force. He also linked up nicely with Randall providing the 9 with opportunity to run.

England – 17

  • Mallinder -12pts – p,p,p,p
  • Marchant – 5pts – t

Australia – 13

  • Mason – 8pts – c,p,p
  • Maddocks – 5pts – t