New Zealand Under 20 finish strong in South Africa

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New Zealand led 33-0 in as many minutes before having to withstand a fierce revival from the tenacious Georgians. Eventually, New Zealand regrouped with fullback Harry Godfrey and All Blacks Sevens replacement flanker Che Clark instrumental.

Initially, New Zealand played their most enterprising rugby of the tournament, especially lethal on the counterattack from turnover ball. All Blacks Sevens wing Caleb Tangitau twice went the length of the field. His first effort was a direct sprint to the line and later he retrieved his own chip and chase in a stellar solo display.

Halfback Noah Hotham was sprightly with his probing runs close to the ruck and quick, short passing. He laid on a try for Will Stodart and was involved in creating a pathway for No.8 Peter Lakai to burst clear.

When Georgia settled they showed why they’ve enjoyed their most successful tournament which included wins over Argentina (20-0) and Italy (30-17). Their scrum was imperious and their mauling suffocating as New Zealand struggled with discipline when deprived of possession.

Prop Ben Ake (high tackle) and flanker Malachi Wrampling (collapsing a maul) were lost to the sin bin as Georgia dramatically scored four tries to slice the deficit to 33-26. Hooker Basa Khonelidze profited twice from rolling mauls and mammoth reserve prop Irakli Aptsiauri was unstoppable from close range. In the backs centre Tornike Kakhoidze and fullback Vazha Mikadze were productive in making headway.

New Zealand desperately needed to stop the Georgian's momentum and Godfrey would be the catalyst for that as he made a break from 22 to 22 which was followed by a penalty kicked by Kemara. Georgia lost some structure and when Godfrey offloaded in congestion to Che Clark who dashed 30m the match was finally won.

The final try was conceded by Georgian right wing Shako Aptsiauri who was deemed to have deliberately knocked the ball on when New Zealand had an overlap. Clark had made a bust prior.

Lakai was named Mastercard Man of the Match with 10 carries for 80m and 11 tackles.

Meanwhile, France won the overall title with a 50-14 win over Ireland in the final.

New Zealand Under 20: 50 (Caleb Tangitau 2, Will Stodart, Peter Lakai, Noah Hotham, Che Clark, penalty try; Taha Kemara 5 con, pen) Georgia Under 20: 26 (Basa Khonelidze 2, Vazha Mikadze, Irakli Aptsiauri tries; Petre Khutsishvili 3 con) HT: 33-14


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