Junior Wallabies suffer agonising loss in U20 world championship final

World Rugby U20s Championship
by Emma Greenwood

The Junior Wallabies have suffered an agonising loss in the U20 world championship final, going down 24-23 to defending champions France.

Despite scoring three tries to two, the Junior Wallabies could not convert their chances, missing two conversions and two penalties to be left devastated at the final whistle.

After sprinting to an early lead, the Junior Wallabies trailed at halftime before hitting back early in the second half to set up an enthralling final period.

Shattered Junior Wallabies players lay strewn on the turf after the final whistle. Photo: Getty Images

But it was the French who were able to control play the best in the dying stages to win a second consecutive U20 title.

The French side contained five members of last year's successful team, including on-field general Louis Carbonel, whose radar boot was the difference between the two sides.

It was a devastating end to an outstanding campaign from Australia, who came within a whisker of sealing the country's first junior world title.

 

Captain Fraser McReight and his men were shattered at the final whistle.

"The scoreboard shows how close the match was, it was back and forth, just point after point from each team. Credit to France, they played really well, but I'm super, super gutted for my team,"McReight said.

"We lifted the tempo in the second half but unfortunately it wasn't enough to get the job done and it just sucks."

French captain Arthur Vincent hoists the trophy after the win. Photo: Getty Images

But McReight agreed the result was a positive for rugby in Australia.

"Not only for us, it shows the junior programs in Australia and the junior pathways are working and there's growth coming up in the future, so it's very positive for Australian rugby.

"The support has been unreal."

The Junior Wallabies scored inside the first minute after Isacc Lucas burst through the line with a subtle show and go and found flying winger Mark Nawaqanitawase on his outside, who raced away to score.

 

But the French hit back soon after, hooker Theo Lachaud crossing after the French forwards pilfered Australian ball at the ruck, with Louis Carbonel's conversion giving France the lead.

The teams traded penalties midway through the first half before the Junior Wallabies found the line again.

Working the short side from a scrum, Semisi Tupou made a break and found hooker Lachlan Lonergan who raced away for his fourth try of the tournament.

Carbonel's pinpoint boot hurt the Australians again late in the half, his kick deep into the corner earning the French a lineout just metres out from the Junior Wallabies line, with prop Alex Burin diving over from the driving maul.

The flyhalf's conversion attempt hit the post, leaving the Australian down by just two points but a pair of mistakes in the shadows of halftime cost the Junior Wallabies.

Isaac Lucas (left) and Nick Frost react at the final whistle of the U20 world championship final after France's one-point win. Photo: Getty Images

When will Harrison put the ball out on the full from the restart, the French earnt a scrum on halfway and their drive downfield ended in a penalty after hooker Lachlan Lonergan infringed at the ruck, with Carbonel slotting the chance to give the French an 18-13 lead at the break.

Australia had the chance to erase the deficit minutes after the break but Harrison was held up over the line and after captain Fraser McReight opted for a scrum rather than a shot at goal from the penalty advantage, they lost the ball forward in sight of the line.

Flanker Harry Wilson made up for that error just minutes later though, bullocking his way across the line to level the scores, with Harrison's conversion returning Australia to the lead.

Junior Wallabies hooker Lachlan Lonergan racing to the tryline in the first half. Photo: Getty Images

With points at a premium, any penalty within kicking range became an opportunity for a shot at goal and while Harrison missed a chance from the left side in the 52nd mintue, he made up for it from the other side of the field not long after, returning Australia to the lead after a Carbonel shot had briefly given France a one-point advantage.

Carbonel again put his side in front though, converting a chance in the 65th minute.

The Junior Wallabies debrief after their agonising 24-23 U20 world championship final loss to France. Photo: Rugby AU Media

This time, the Junior Wallabies could not answer, halfback McDonald missing a long-range attempt in the 67th minute and leaving the French with the advantage heading into the final 10 minutes.

The Junior Wallabies had a final chance, earning a turnover from a French knock-on deep inside Australian territory but they were unable to score, eventually knocking on themsevles after the fulltime hooter.

 

RESULT

France 24

Tries: Lachaud, Burin

Cons: Carbonel

Pens: Carbonel 4

Junior Wallabies 23

Tries: Nawaqanitawase, Lonergan, Wilson

Cons: Harrison

Pens: Harrison 2