With just fewer than 300 points scored across six matches in the World Rugby U20 Championships, it was a fantastic day of rugby with plenty of Under-20s Six Nations stars on show.
England and France were victorious, with the former extending their lead at the top of Pool B and the latter keeping the pressure on South Africa in Pool C.
However, Wales, Ireland and Scotland fell to Southern Hemisphere sides but all showed potential with some great moves and resilience.
RED ROSE BLOSSOMS
England surged past Italy to extend their lead at the top of their pool in the World Rugby U20 Championships.
It was a try-fest in Perpignan as the Red Rose ran in seven scores to secure a 43-5 triumph. Marcus Smith opened the scoring after Tom Willis offloaded in midfield, and the fly-half stepped the covering defender to go under the posts, after which he converted his own score. Following his four tries in the Six Nations, Tom Parton went over for England’s second in the left corner following a miss-pass in midfield, with Smith converting. A fluid move saw Smith again break through a hole in the Italian defence, before the ball made its way out to Ben Loader to cross for his first of two, adding more his England Under-20 tally after touching down twice in the Six Nations. Italy managed to get on the scoreboard after half an hour, with an end-to-end move creating space down the right for Damiano Mazza to take out the last defender with a pass out to Antoine Koffi, who touched down under the posts. But the English immediately hit back and had the bonus-point score before the break, as captain Ben Curry claimed the restart and the ball made its way out to Loader, whose quick footwork bedazzled the last defender and he went over in the corner. England continued their fine form in the second half, moving the ball through the hands to the wing in Italy’s 22, where Gabriel Ibitoye was on hand to powerfully drive over the line and get his eighth try for the U20s after two in the Six Nations. Smith also continued to shine, picking up a loose ball to sprint half the pitch and race under the posts, before slotting the conversion to notch up 18 points within the hour on his first start. Rory Brand was next to cross as he slipped his defender from close range and sniped his way over, after the pack drove forward from a scrum five metres out. The Red Rose play their final game of the pool stage on Thursday against Scotland in Beziers but sit in prime position to advance to the quarter-finals, following their impressive victory over the Azzurrini. England Under-20s head coach Steve Bates said: “It was a really good first 50 minutes. We put a lot of pressure on Italy, scored seven tries and probably could have scored a couple more.
“It was a really important step forward but we know we can improve and there is lots to come from this side.
“We know Scotland will be a really tough challenge, but so far so good.
“I thought we put them under a lot of pressure up front, we scrummaged really well and that set the platform. We took our opportunities in the first half and despite the game becoming slightly fragmented in the second period I’m still satisfied with the performance.”
LES BLEUETS STAY ON TRACK France were also triumphant in their match against Georgia, making it two wins from two in Pool B to leave qualification for the semi-finals in their own hands. Iban Etcheverry, Thomas Lavault and Arthur Vincent all touched down to give Les Bleuets a 24-12 win. With their last pool match against group leaders South Africa, it was a crucial win and sets up an important match with the similarly undefeated Baby Boks on Thursday. Ireland were also defeated, falling 30-17 to the South Africans in Narbonne after Caelen Sweetman-Doris had put the Irish within two points before the break. A hat-trick from Wandisile Simelane all but ended Ireland’s hopes of a win though, and Michael Silvester’s try wasn’t enough to close the deficit. BABY BLACKS TOO HOT TO HANDLE Meanwhile, in Pool A, Wales were overpowered 42-10 by defending champions New Zealand, having still been in the game at half-time after Taine Basham’s first half score. But the Baby Blacks showed their class in the second half and raced ahead, leaving Wales third in their pool and desperate for a victory against Japan on matchday three. Scotland still searching for first win The Scottish were also still in the game at the half-way point in their match with Argentina, as Callum McLelland’s score made it 15-7 to the Pumitas. Yet the Argentinians increased the pressure in the second half and ran out 29-13 victors, meaning Scotland lie bottom of Pool B and will be playing for pride against the English in their final match. In the last match of the day, Australia eased past Japan with a 54-19 triumph to go second in Pool A.