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The Australian Under 20s have been denied a historic victory over New Zealand at the IRB Junior World Championship, despite a late charge and dominant second half from the young men in green and gold.
The Australians fell 14-10 to New Zealand in front of a capacity crowd at Stade de la Rabine in Vannes, France, early this morning.
Australia overcame a halftime deficit of 14-3 to chase down the New Zealanders and close the gap to 14-10 with 20 minutes left in the game.
They looked almost certain to become only the third team to ever defeat New Zealand in a Junior World Championship game, as they controlled much of the final exchanges and kept them scoreless in the second half.
They are now unable to make the Cup round of the playoffs and while captain Curtis Browning was disappointed, he praised the efforts of his teammates.
"I am so proud of them,” Browning said. “They stuck in right to the end and to keep them with no points in the second half is a real testament to the boys and it put a lot of pride back in the jersey, even though we didn't get the win.
“It is obviously disappointing to have back-to-back losses in a tournament like this. The boys really stuck in and you can't fault their effort, it was there.
“We talked about being ruthless and that is what we did today, even if the result wasn't there."
As in their 19-15 loss to Ireland, the Australians found themselves behind early following three penalties to New Zealand’s Simon Hickey, to give his side a 9-0 lead after just 16 minutes.
The Australians looked defensively sound until the 25th minute, when a chip and chase by fullback Jonah Placid was turned into a counter attacking opportunity and New Zealand’s Joseph Edwards crossed over.
Australia’s Reece Hodge kicked a single penalty in the first half.
Australia lifted in the second half, with aggression and vigour providing plenty of go forward as they controlled much of the possession and began to assert themselves on the game.
Their persistence paid off 20 minutes into the half when they turned back two offers for an easy three points in the New Zealand red zone, opting to keep ball in hand and pressure the line.
This paid dividends as after several phases, the work of the Australian forwards led to space out wide for replacement back Luke Burton to cross over for a try. Hodge converted and Australia trailed by just four.
The Australians continued to threaten in the late stages of the game and were awarded a penalty on full time. They kept ball in hand, taking a further two quick taps following additional New Zealand infringements, but the ball was eventually turned over in a messy breakdown and the referee called time on the match.
The Australian Under 20s face Fiji in their final pool game on Friday 14 June at 4:45am (AEST).
All games of the IRB Junior World Championship are streamed live at www.irb.com.
Australia 10 – New Zealand 14
Australia tries – Luke Burton
Conversions – Reece Hodge
Penalty goals –Hodge
Australian Under-20 IRB Junior World Championship draw
6 June, 2:45am (AEST)
V Ireland (L 19-15)
Stade de la Rabine in Vannes
10 June, 4:45am (AEST)
V New Zealand (L 14-10)
14 June, 4:45am (AEST)
Australian Under 20s v New Zealand
Click to view Australian Under-20 bios online
Curtis Browning (c)
University of Queensland
GPS Old Boys
University RC WA