New Zealand: 68 (Caleb Clark 2, Will Jordon, Orbyn Leger, Jona Nareki, Braydon Ennor, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Tamati Tua, Adrian Choat tries; Tiaan Falcon 5 con, 3 pen, Leger 2con) Italy: 26 (Simone Cornelli, Niccolo Cannone, Michele Lamaro, Alberto Rollero tries; Filippo Di Marco 3 con)
In boxing there is a cliché that suggests "styles make fights." The contests which are the most interesting are those featuring combatants with stark contrasts. If ever there was a rugby match in which this adage applied it was surely the Pool B World Rugby U20 Championship fixture between New Zealand and Italy.
New Zealand with their clinical backs won handsomely enough, but Italy with their forward power exposed a major frailty which could derail the Kiwis title tilt.
Three of Italy's tires were scored by forwards Niccolo Cannone, Michele Lamaro and Alberto Rollero from lineout mauls. When the ball was trapped in the lineout New Zealand was repeatedly shoved backwards and looked lost for answers. Skipper Luke Jacobson was yellow carded in the 47th minute and one drive saw New Zealand in retreat 35-meters.
Despite the glaring weakness in restraining the mauls, a New Zealand victory was never in question. The Baby Blacks quickly recovered from an opening minute intercept to Italian fullback Simone Cornelli to lead 39-21 at halftime.
New Zealand scored some brilliant tries to became the first team in tournament history to reach 2,000 points.
In the 11th minute No.8 Marino Mikaele-Tu'u surged 50-meters and was cut down in the Italian half. Jacobson carried on the movement to reach the 22. Centre Braydon Ennor was then smashed by lock Niccolo Cannone propelling the ball backwards. Italy kicked it ahead, but fullback Will Jordon retrieved possession and kicked and chased into space, controlling the bounce to score a 50-meter try.
Wing Caleb Clarke broke tackles at will and in the 17th minute he helped engineer a try for second-five Orbyn Leger and then became receiver after lock Isaiah Walker-Leawere bulled his way through multiple mercenaries close to the line.
Jordon with his vision and pace set-up wing Jona Nareki and a jolting tackle by first-five Tiaan Falcon forced an Italian fumble and allowed Ennor to atone for his shaky start.
New Zealand made eight changes from their first match and again emptied the bench. Four tries were added in the second spell with the highlights including a 90-meter dash by Tamati Tua and halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara spiriting 60-meters before ensuring Clark had an easy finish under the sticks.
Italy made 11 changes from the side that upset 2016 runners up Ireland, but managed to accomplish a four try bonus point against a side who beat them 64-7 in 2011.
New Zealand have carrying strength in the back row and the most enterprising back division in the tourney, but can the tight forwards front up against tougher opposition? This campaign looks eerily similar to the false promise of 2016.
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