New Zealand beat Australia 27-18 to confirm semi-final spot, when they will play tournament hosts France.
Vilimoni Koroi is the most accomplished international in the New Zealand Under-20’s having been a regular member of the All Blacks Sevens for the past two years.
The fullback was conspicuously quiet for most of the match against Australia, but showed his excellence when it most counted.
In the 62nd minute New Zealand was clinging grimly to a 20-18 lead. Koroi broke the defence from a quick lineout at halfway, setting up a try for wing Jamie Spowart. It was sudden, surprising and stunning bust by Koroi which won New Zealand a tough and scrappy affair.
Initially New Zealand started brightly. Openside Tom Christie was disallowed a try after two minutes, ploughing aggressively through a ruck and kicking the ball over the line failing to force. An earlier Aussie knock on was discovered on the television review and New Zealand was awarded a scrum. After three assertive phases, New Zealand hit the right side rapidly and Harry Plummer punched through.
Isaac Lucas opened Australia’s account with a penalty, but New Zealand would soon charge ahead 14-3. Matt McTaggert snatched an intercept on the left wing at the 22 and ventured into the Kiwis half. Australia looked to stretch New Zealand on the opposite side, but Devan Flanders intercepted himself and dashed 65-metres. The No.8 was a workhorse throughout.
Christie was denied again and Plummer kicked a penalty to make it 17-3 at which point New Zealand appeared comfortable.
However Australia rallied and struck in the 28th minute. Wing Jordan Petaia skilfully palmed a ball heading into touch infield and openside Fraser McCreight snaffled and strode 25-metres.
In the 36th minute New Zealand conceded a penalty try from a scrum and tighthead Tevita Mafile’o was yellow carded.
The halftime score was 17-15.
Australia failed to capitalise on their one man advantage as the heavens opened turning the contest into a cautious territorial tussle. Plummer and Lucas exchanged penalties to make it 20-18, before Korori at last sprung to life.
New Zealand have beaten Australia in all six meetings at the Under-20 World Cup and will face tournament hosts France in the semi-final. Last year New Zealand beat France at the same stage 39-26. The other semi-final features England and South Africa.
New Zealand went through group play unbeaten. In their previous match the Kiwis accounted for Wales 42-10. Billy Proctor, Bailyn Sullivan, Tom Christie, Tevita Mafileo and Xavier Roe scored tries with Harry Plummer kicking four conversions and three penalties.
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