The Stade Aime-Giral in Perpignan is known as the bear pit. The New Zealand Under-20s were turned into Cubs at the much vaunted venue this morning, beaten 16-7 in the semi-final of the World Championship.
The raucous roar of a partisan crowd coupled with a fiery French pack proved overwhelming for New Zealand who were comprehensively outplayed. A belated rally in the last ten minutes somewhat disgusted the true gulf between the two teams.
New Zealand's pack was creaky in the first-half. By full-time the scrum had imploded and France were collecting penalties for fun from lineout mauls.
France controlled territory throughout, but it took half an hour for the opening score. Classy first-five Louis Carbonel kicked a penalty, shortly after Xavier Roe had managed to hold the French up over the line.
France left a pile of points uncollected. In the 38th minute wing Mathis Lebel dropped a cross-kick with the line at his mercy. Two penalty shots went astray in the second-spell.
France scored their only try in the 43rd minute when after 16 phases of attack second-five Romain Ntamack slipped through. The conversion made it 10-0. Romain Ntamack is the son of Emile Ntamack who scored 26 tries in 46 tests for France and beat the All Blacks four times in six starts.
Carbonel is already a regular in the Top 14 and in the 50th minute he drilled a penalty to make it 13-0. In the 63rd minute a savaged New Zealand scrum ensured another three points for Carbonel.
New Zealand has never failed to score a try in a match at this tournament and Harry Plummer kept that record in tact when he muscled over in the corner. A skip pass from Kaleb Trask and some brute force from Caleb Clarke inspiring some attacking spark.
With nine minutes remaining New Zealand could have established the possibility of an improbable victory. From deep inside his 22, Plummer kicked brilliantly for Villi Kori who with the support of three others brought New Zealand to within five meters of the French line. Reserve hooker Ricky Jackson knocked on with numbers unmarked on his outside.
Jordan Joseph (8), Demba Bamba (3), and Thomas Lavault (5) proved especially difficult for the Kiwis to contain.
Lock Laghlan McWhannell toiled gamely for the 'Baby Blacks' and Hoskins Sotutu added some impact from the bench.
France have reached the final for the first time and will play England who beat South Africa 32-31 in the other semi-final.
The medal matches are held on Sunday.
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