PARIS – Teenager Jordan Joseph inspired France to a 23-14 victory over England on Sunday to claim a maiden World Rugby Under-20 Championship title.
Joseph, just 17 and recently signed with Top 14 giants Racing 92, was part of a France pack that outplayed their English counterparts, France flyhalf Louis Carbonel kicking 23 points in an exceptional display with the boot.
Carbonel opened the scoring in the fifth minute, booting a long-range penalty at a packed Stade de la Mediterranee in Beziers which was basking in sunshine. The England scrum was soon under the cosh, Carbonel hitting his second penalty before Marcus Smith responded.
Carbonel went wide, however, when trying to convert a try from Cameron Woki, on hand to finish off some fine close-quarter scrambling by Toulouse winger Maxime Marty.
Smith then missed a penalty as England sought a way back into a half in which they dominated possession. Instead it was Carbonel who turned the screw with a third penalty after England captain Ben Curry infringed.
England did reduce the arrears, however, going through more than 20 phases before a looping Tom Paxton pass found Jordan Olowofela with a chink of space, the winger making no mistake to dot down in the corner. Smith missed the extras to leave it 14-8 to France at the break.
Carbonel stretched the lead with two further penalties early in the second period, Marty, Agen fullback Clement Laporte, tighthead Demba Mamba and the Joseph-inspired loose trio proving to be stubborn thorns in England's side.
The flyhalf hit a 50-metre effort, Harlequins counterpart Smith banging over a 63rd-minute penalty to leave it 23-11. Carbonel made no mistake with his sixth penalty to give France a significant psychological advantage going into the final 10 minutes.
Replacement prop Joe Heyes crashed over for England, James Grayson converting to make it 26-18 amid repeated renditions of ‘La Marseillaise’. But home worries were put to rest when Carbonel’s delicious grubber was pounced on by Lyon centre Adrien Seguret, the flyhalf converting to put the match beyond England.
Olowofela crossed for a consolation try for England, converted by Grayson, but it was all too late for the Red Rose.