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France keep world U20 title defence alive as Ireland beat Italy

France keep world U20 title defence alive as Ireland beat Italy

Ireland produced a scintillating first-half display as they claimed a bonus-point victory against Six Nations rivals Italy at the World Rugby U20 Championship.

Tries from Michael Milne, Cormac Foley, Azur Allison, Rob Russell and Ryan Baird sealed a 38-14 win for Ireland as they secured second position in Pool B behind group winners Australia.

Needing five points and a significant points difference swing to progress to the semi-finals, the 2019 Six Nations U20 champions scored four tries in the first 40 minutes against Italy in Santa Fe.

Noel McNamara’s men piled the pressure on the Azzurrini in the opening minutes and were rewarded with their first try when Milne crashed over the tryline from close range.

Fly-half Ben Healy enjoyed a perfect kicking display as he edged Ireland further ahead, before Leinster centre Foley combined with Russell to race over for his side’s second try.

More sustained pressure from Ireland then presented Allison with an opportunity to add his name to the scoresheet, with the No.8 dotting down on 32 minutes to make it 22-0.

And the bonus-point was wrapped up on the cusp of half-time when winger Russell capitalised on a clever no-look pass from Healy – who converted to further extend Ireland’s advantage.

But Italy hit back just before the break, with the clock five minutes into the red, as Alessandro Fusco sniped over after a succession of penalties to make it 31-7 at the interval.

Italy continued to cut the deficit after the restart thanks to a penalty try, but Ireland soon regained control and cancelled it out when Baird crossed for their fifth try just before the hour.

That proved to be the final score as Ireland were unable to further bolster their points difference, meaning they missed out on the qualifying for the semi-finals as the best runners-up.

In Pool A, Wales survived a second-half fightback from Fiji to ensure they also claimed their second win of the tournament as they crossed the whitewash six times in a 44-28 thriller.

Tries from Tommy Reffell, Dafydd Buckland and Tomi Lewis saw Gareth Williams’ side storm into a 22-14 half-time lead before the Fijians started to close the gap after the restart.

Kaminieli Rasaku scored twice soon after the interval to bring Fiji to within a point, but Dewi Lake, Ben Warren and Ioan Davies all crossed for Wales to bag a bonus-point triumph.

Despite also beating Argentina in their first game, though, Wales ultimately finished third in Pool A after the hosts defeated defending champions France 47-26 to top the group.

A draw would have been enough for France to progress to the semi-finals after going into the game with a four-point lead over Los Pumitas having won their opening two games.

But France found themselves trailing 34-7 at the break and although they closed the deficit after the restart, the Les Bleuets were left to sweat on their place in the final four.

South Africa defeated New Zealand 25-17 to finish at the summit of Pool C, however, which meant France took the best runners-up spot to keep their title defence alive.

Meanwhile, England’s hopes of contesting the semi-finals had already been dashed before the third round of games as they went up against Australia.

Yet that did not stop them from turning on the style, scoring eight tries to secure a comprehensive 56-33 bonus-point victory over the Pool B table-toppers.

Tries from Fraser Dingwall, Ollie Sleightholme, Tom de Glanville, Aaron Hinkley and a brace for Ted Hill saw the Red Rose race into a 42-12 at the half-time break.

Second-half scores from Manu Vunipola and Tom Willis completed a dominant performance from Steve Bates’ side, who were left to rue their defeat to Ireland in their opening game.

Elsewhere, Scotland experienced heartbreak in their last game as a late Georgian try consigned Carl Hogg’s men to a 17-12 defeat as they finished bottom of the Pool C standings.

A brace from hooker Ewan Ashman put the Scots in front, but replacement Luka Nioradze pounced on an overthrown lineout to score the winning try for Georgia on 75 minutes.