For the first time in tournament history the World Rugby Junior Championships will feature an all Northern Hemisphere final when unbeaten England and Ireland lock horns in the decider. New Zealand will face Australia for a third time in 2016 in the playoff for fifth after they demolished Wales in a showcase of what might have been.
New Zealand: 71 (Caleb Makene 3, Shaun Stevenson 2, Jonah Lowe, Hamish Dalzell, Hapakuki Moala Liava’a, Leni Apisai, Quinten Strange, Sio Tomkinson tries; Jordie Barrett 7 con, Shaun Stevenson 1 con) Wales: 12 (Joe Gage, Harrison Keedie tries; Dan Jones 1 con)
What could have been? New Zealand produced a virtuoso attacking performance to destroy Grand Slam Champions Wales.
The contest was over after ten minutes following a blistering start by the Baby Blacks that saw four unanswered tries scored.
Wing Jonah Lowe began the carnage after 40 seconds when he burst into a hole in the middle of the Welsh lineout on the 22. Two minutes later lock Hamish Dalzell charged down an attempted clearing kick by Welsh pivot Dan Jones and lumbered 25-meters to score.
Wales employed a rush defense which left them vulnerable to accurate chip kicks. New Zealand brutally exposed this reality with their next two tries. First-five Stephen Perofeta chipped wide for lock Quinten Strange to gather on the wing. Strange transferred inside to actual winger Caleb Makene who dotted down. Second-Five Jordie Barrett then repeated the tactic and fullback Shaun Stevenson crossed.
A series of powerful charges by hooker Liam Belcher sparked a brief Welsh rival. In the 17th minute prop Joe Gage managed to muscle over, but normal service was quickly resumed when hooker Leni Apisai scored - the captain was the benefactor of another attacking Barrett kick.
New Zealand led 35-5 at the interval, but the lead could have been larger had they converted three additional clean breaks into points.
Impressively New Zealand maintained the momentum in the second-half. The speed, intent and accuracy of their offloading was a slight to behold at times as they opened up the Welsh defense with ease. Wales intensity, when compared to Thursday, was seriously lacking.
Makene, who was lucky to be selected ahead of Mason Emerson, justified his inclusion with another strong game. He finished expertly and pursed work. Stevenson maybe the best fullback at the tourney and Isaia Walker-Leawere had a storming game of the bench.
Perhaps New Zealand's most impressive try was the final effort by Sio Tomkinson. After a period of defense the Otago centre ran coast to coast after New Zealand denied Wales the last say.
Tomkinson has been somewhat underwhelming at this tourney and New Zealand's scrum was far from convincing again, but this performance was a showcase of genuine skill and pride.
Meanwhile Australia avenged their Pool Play defeat to Scotland winning 35-19, despite trailing 14-19 early in the second-half. Second-five Sione Tuipulotu scored two tries.
Ireland v Argentina - Semi Final 1
Ireland: 37 (Jacob Stockdale 2, Max Deegan, Shane Daly tries; Jonny McPhillips 4 con, 3 pen) Argentina: 7 (Juan Cruz Mallia, Domingo Miotti 1 con)
Ireland have made their first IRB Junior World Championship final after a resounding victory against Argentina.
The opening exchanges were tight and physical. In the seventh minute a driving maul took Ireland towards the line. When the ball came back to first-five Johnny McPhillips he hoisted a kick to the corner and Matthew Byrne's challenge deflected the ball into fullback Jacob Stockdale's hands for a try.
Argentina missed a penalty minutes later and it was Ireland who struck next, somewhat against the run of play, when number eight Max Deegan read a pass to make the interception and charge 70-metres downfield to score.
A third try followed through Stockdale and Ireland were 21-0 ahead and coasting. Stockdale from Ulster is a good prospect in the Rob Kearney mode.
Argentina struck back on the stroke of half-time when Los Pumitas claimed lineout ball and first-five Domingo Miotti put through a little dink which captain Juan Cruz Mallia raced through to dot down.
Ireland held Argentina scoreless in the second-half as their forwards monopolized possession and territory. Argentina's discipline strayed and the assured McPhillips kicked three penalties. In the 72nd minute Argentina was reduced to 14 men after replacement prop Santiago Pulella was sent off for a head butt.
Centre Shane Daly made the most of Ireland's numerical advantage when he capped an impressive display with a try close to fulltime.
Irish No.8 Max Deegan was named man of the match. He was a powerhouse with ball in hand. Loose head Andrew Porter was another to standout in a fine team effort. Openside Mariano Romanini was the pick of the Pumas.
England v South Africa - Semi Final 2
England: 39 (Max Green, Huw Taylor, Sam Aspland-Robinson, John Williams, Max Malins, Max Wright tries; Jack Mallinder 3 con, 1 pen) South Africa: 17 (Edwill Van Der Merwe, Curwin Bosch tries; Bosch 2 con, 1 pen)
England are into a fourth consecutive final after earning a third win in a row against South Africa.
South Africa started brightly enough when sprightly fullback Curwin Bosch breached the defense, but England covered and soon assumed control.
South Africa lacked characteristic physicality and England with a rampant pack and a backline eager to shift the ball crossed for five first-half tries.
In the third minute Max Green opened England's account supporting a bust by centre Johnny Williams.
In the eighth minute England were two tries up when lighting hands created space for hooker Jack Singleton on the wing only for him to be hauled down just short. The ball was quickly recycled and second-row Huw Taylor stretched his long arms out to dot down.
It got worse for South Africa with their captain Jeremy Ward sin-binned for a dangerous tackle and in his absence England added a third through winger Sam Aspland-Robinson.
The potent Williams added a fourth try just past the half-hour mark and, despite Will Evans seeing yellow for a dangerous tackle on the stroke of half-time, there was one more try to come as Harry Mallinder’s kick was gathered by Joe Marchant who sprinted 60-meters and linked with fullback Max Malins.
South African wing Edwill Van Der Merwe struck first in the second-half when he intercepted a cross-field kick and dashed coast to coast. Four minutes later Bosch gilded through and rushed 20-meters to reduce the score to 31-17.
England steadied and first-five Jack Mallinder kicked a penalty with 25 minutes to go.
England applied the icing on the cake with eight minutes left when Malins slipped through and passed to replacement Max Wright on his outside for an easy run-in.
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