Aussie U20s can't repeat 2016 heroics against red hot Kiwis

World Rugby U20s Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Three games in the space of eight days will make the Aussie U20s more resilient, coach Simon Cron says.

The Aussies couldn't repeat their 2016 Oceania heroics, where they clinched a first-ever win over their trans-Tasman neighbours, with New Zealand the clear winner of the Oceania tournament on the Gold Coast.

Close to a third of his team played every match and Cron said that would pay off in the long run, as they prepare for another camp before June's World Championships. 

"Three games in 10 days and our 1,3,6,8,12,13 played almost every minute," he said.

 

"We're just a little bit short behind them to cover them. It's tough for them.

 

"However, it'll make them more resilient in the future in terms of their ability to play a lot of minutes."

A Harry Nucifora penalty put the Australians in front in the sixth minute on Saturday, but that lasted just five minutes, as the Kiwis took control.

Australia weren’t afraid to run with the ball, but found themselves in danger with a risky counter-attacking move just shy of the New Zealand try line.

New Zealand captain Luke Jacobson made Australia pay deep in defence, crashing over the line to snatch the lead for the Kiwis in the ninth minute, an advantage they never conceded.

From there, things began to unravel for the Aussies, who were able to get on top at scrum time but couldn’t convert that into any other pressure.

Lock Isaia Walker-Leawere nabbed the Kiwis’ second and fullback Will Jordan slipped through the Australian defence on his way to their third by the half-hour mark, with a Nucifora penalty

Outside centre Tamati Tua finished off some slick attack to make the margin 23 points as half-time closed in.

Australia’s pain was compounded by a yellow card for Nucifora in the final seconds of the half, leaving them a man down as they attempted to wrestle back some momentum.

Openside flanker Tom Christie gave New Zealand its fifth in the 48th minute, somewhat controversially with the touch judge overruling a knock-on call to award the points.

Jacobson had his second in the 58th, again making the most of some lacklustre Australian defence, with the home side unable to stop their opponents in their tracks.

The bleeding stopped after that but Australia wasn’t able to peg back the margin, in the final 20 minutes.

Australia was missing many of its first-choice players, with 13 players who will likely make the grade for the U20s World Championships tied up with Super Rugby and Aussie Sevens commitments.

Cron praised his forwards post-match, after a strong display from the pack.

"The loose forwards worked really hard and I think the second row also, they secured some good quality ball in the first half," he said.

"It's just that we then threw it away during our launch play or that first two phase of attack. Then, the last when we decided to play rugby and get some shape you could see there's some upside to those boys."

The flair of the New Zealand backs stood out and captain Jacobson said that was something he was pretty happy to harness.

"We've got a bit of razzle out there, the boys can create a bit of something out of nothing," he said.

"t makes it good for us forwards, we can keep going forward and it makes it easy."

That World Championship squad will be named on Sunday, ahead of the tournament, kicking off on May 31 in Georgia.

"Selectors have got a rough idea of certain players and a couple of guys put their hand up and a couple of guys put their hand down, so that's the way rugby is," Cron said.

RESULT

Australia U20s 6

Pens: Nucifora 2

Yellow cards: Nucifora (40’)

New Zealand U20s 43

Tries: Jacobson 2, Walker-Leawere, Jordan, Tua, Christie

Cons: Falcon 5

Pens: Falcon

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