CAPE TOWN - A good fightback has been the Junior Springboks' friend in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship this year, but on Tuesday night, it wasn't enough to overcome England and secure a place in the final.
In the first semi-final of the night, England had all the say when it came to territory and possession in the first half. As has been the case in all three of their pool games, the Junior Boks produced a laudable comeback in the second half to turn a 15 point half-time deficit (22-7) into a one-point game in the last minute of the game.
Chean Roux's team also ran out of luck against hosts France in their last group-stage game, when a brilliant first-half outing by the French proved too strong for an improved Junior Bok effort in the second. And as much as they deserve praise for their comebacks, the Junior Boks just weren't good enough on the day against a more clinical England side. And producing an 80-minute performance has been a real problem for them.
The Junior Springboks were under pressure very early on as they were shown yellow 6th in the minute, and England used it to their advantage and scored two tries (one converted) in that time through Tom Parton and Tom Hardwick (0-12).
The Junior Boks played a mostly defensive role in the first half, and Ben White added to England's early try tally when he rounded off a fantastic team effort early in the second quarter to take the score to 0-19. Just after the half-hour mark Sandi got the Junior Boks' first try, and fullback Gianni Lombard added the two-pointer to take the score to 7-19. On the stroke of half time, Smith added a penalty kick to extend their lead (22-7)
The Junior Boks started much better in the second half. After that first half, they couldn't get any real continuity on attack while they also made a number of mistakes. After some phase play, the Junior Boks' forwards pulled together after being put under pressure by England earlier in the match and Uys made up for one of the tries that was scored in his absence by diving over after being propelled forward for a great maul try. Lombard sent the conversion attempt just wide (22-12).
🎥 REACTION: @JuniorBoks Captain, Salmaan Moerat speaks with Sean Maloney on his side's courageous performance falling just short to @EnglandRugby at the #WorldRugbyU20s Final score: 🏴 32 - 31 🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/gm8fkEl5II
It became a six-point game when lock Ruan Nortjie assesed his space well before sneaking the ball over the try line after clearing it from the base of a ruck centimeters from the whitewash. Lombard hit his target this time to take the score to 25-19.
At the start of the second half, England got another try when flanker Ben Curry put in a massive ball-dislodging hit on Junior Bok inside centre Rikus Pretorius. Left wing Jordan Olowofela capitalised and sprinted to the try line to score their fourth try. Smith added the extras (32-19).
It became an eight-point game when outside centre Manuel Rass got involved in the Junior Boks' pick-and-goes and scored. And Lombard missed out on the chance to bring the points difference to six when he missed the conversion. (32-24).
With six minutes to go, England were reduced to 14 men when James Scott was sent to the sin bin after repeated infringements. And with a numerical advantage, the South African pack continued their big second-half performance when replacement tighthead Asenathi Ntlabakanye scored his first try of the tournament. Lombard made no mistake with the conversion (32-31).
Junior Springoks: Tries: Sazi Sandi, Muller Uys, Ruan Nortjie, Manuel Rass, Asenathi Ntlabakanye Conversions: Gianni Lombard (3) Yellow card: Muller Uys. England: Tries: Tom Parton, Tom Hardwick, Ben White, Jordan Olowofela Conversions: Marcus Smith (2) Penalties: Smith (2) Yellow card: James Scott.