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New Zealand Thwart Australia: The U20 World Championship Finals Day Review Part 2

It was a jam-packed Saturday at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford just outside of Manchester as a handful of teams fought for the best possible seeding for next year’s U20 Championship, as well as England and Ireland battling it out for the coveted World Championship trophy.

We are going to take an in-depth look at all three games that took place at the AJ Bell Stadium. Next up is Australia against New Zealand.

5th Place Play-Off: Australia v New Zealand

Next up in the day were 2010 finalists Australia and last year’s champions New Zealand. Having previously thrashed Wales 71 – 12, New Zealand were in high spirits and determined to finish the tournament on a high despite failing to make the semi-finals for the first time in the tournament’s history.

The 5th place play-off was fiercely competitive, which should come as no great surprise considering the two nations involved.

But it was Mikaele Tu’u who drew first blood for the Baby Blacks. However, Australia’s U20s replicated the senior side with some wonderful footwork and handling, with Campbell Magnay finishing off a move that was a joy to be able to witness.

But the Baby Blacks quickly took control of the game with further tries from Hapakuki Moala-Liava’a and Quinten Strange.

Yet it was Australia’s fantastic scrummaging that helped to get them a foothold back in the game, with a number of penalties being awarded to the young Wallabies.

However, a lack of ball control at the back of the scrum cost the Australians time and time again, spoiling any chance of them building on some truly impressive scrums with the Baby Blacks going back at a rate of knots.

The Australians were eventually awarded a penalty try – that’s right, an Aussie team getting a penalty try due to scrummaging, and at half-time the teams were level at 21-21.

In the second half penalty goals were exchanged before Isaia Walker-Leawere intercepted, making it look so easy in the process, and put New Zealand on top.

Australia continued to rely on their set-piece for any way into the game, but some superb handling skills from the Baby Blacks meant replacement hooker Asafo Aumua dived in at the corner. Further tries followed for Peter Umaga-Jensen, Patelesio Tomkinson and Jonathan Taumateriene.

The final score was again astounding from the Baby Blacks: 55 – 24.

Pundit Arena caught up with New Zealand’s captain Leni Apisai, who was encouraged by his side’s display:

“It’s great to get the win, obviously it’s not the final you want to play in but we didn’t drop our heads and we had a big emphasis on our bench. They came on and gave us that extra 10% that we wanted them to.”

He was also keen to emphasise that the future is bright for the Baby Blacks:

“There’s a number of guys who can come back next year so there’s definitely a good core group of players for next year’s team and that’s exciting.”

New Zealand’s fifth place finish means they join Australia and South Africa in the second level of seeding for next year’s tournament, meaning there could be some very challenging pools indeed.

Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.