New Zealand Under 20 fall to Australia in Cape Town

World Rugby U20 Championship 2023  Fifth place semi final New Zealand v Australia 1

Lock Tom Allen was yellow carded in the 20th minute for lifting an Australian player past the horizontal in a tackle. Upon review, the sanction was upgraded to a red card meaning Allen was unable to return for the remainder of the contest.

New Zealand had started positively enough leading 12-8 and resisting a 22-phase attack by Australia in the opening quarter. Centre Aki Tuivailala was elusive and tries were scored by promising wings Macca Springer and Caleb Tangitau. The former is with the Crusaders and has scored five tries in the tournament, the latter is a member of the All Blacks Sevens and was bruising at times.

Conceding a 6-0 penalty count after 23 minutes further incurred the wrath of the referee and blindside Malachi Wrampling-Alec was sin-binned in the 23rd minute. Somewhat predictably Australia was able to score two tries and take an 18-12 lead. Once again defending the rolling maul was a headache for New Zealand. Hooker Max Craig was among the Aussies' best.

New Zealand would rally not long after. A series of poor clearances was followed by five consecutive penalties as the ‘Baby Blacks’ piled on 18 unanswered points. First-five Taha Kemara really stamped his mark kicking a 40m penalty, 25m drop goal, and creating space with his beautiful passing.

As an undermanned New Zealand side naturally tired it was easier for Australia to create and exploit overlaps. Wings Tim Ryan and Rohan Leahy scored the junior Wallabies' next three tries with Ryan’s second hurtful for New Zealand who hesitated when the ball bobbled loose and were caught napping blindside.

Australia’s bench added much-needed impetus. John Bryant was a menace at the breakdown and front rowers Liam Bowron, Marley Pearce, and Trevor King added muscle.

Wrampling-Alec atoned for his yellow card with two tries and some explosive carries. Hooker Jack Taylor wasn’t always accurate with his lineout throwing but his heart and bustle are commendable. Peter Lakai was named by Mastercard as Man of the Match. The New Zealand No.8 and co-captain never stopped working.

Meanwhile, France and Ireland will contest the final after defeating England and South Africa respectively in the semifinals. 

New Zealand will play Georgia in their final game of the tournament on Saturday 15 July, 3am NZT, at Dannie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.

New Zealand Under 20: 35 (Macca Springer, Caleb Tangitau 2, Malachi Wrampling-Alec 2, Jack Taylor tries; Taha Kemara 2 con, pen, dg) Australia Under 20: 44 (Max Craig 2, Henry O'Donnell, Tim Ryan 2, Rohan Leahy, Teddy Wilson tries; Harry McLaughlin-Phillips 4 con, pen) HT: 25-18, New Zealand.


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