Ricochet News

Backline players blew it for Junior Boks as they exit WR U20 Championship

By Marc Jacobson - Jun 14, 2017
Backline players blew it for Junior Boks as they exit WR U20 Championship

The Junior Springboks suffered a late try-setback in the 76th minute to lose 24-22 to England in the World Rugby U20 Championship semi-finals at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi on Tuesday evening.

With England looking to play on the front foot for most of the game, South Africa did well to maintain composure, as especially in the first half, they were evidently on the receiving end of a wrath.

The English broke ice in just the fourth minute through a slip-away try from Captain Zach Mercer. The Junior Boks responded well after built momentum swung eighth-man, Juarno Augustus, in for a try.

With the scores locked at 7-7, England managed to then tirelessly drain South Africa’s defence, after once again pinning on the front foot with a good break and offload from flyhalf Max Malins, which sent his halfback partner, Alex Mitchell in for a try under the posts.

Due to prolonged dominance, England then milked a penalty to take the scores to 17-7 just after the 20th minute. At this stage, it looked trouble-begging for South Africa, but they refuted this with another score from talisman, Augustus, in the tight-play on the verge of half-time.

South Africa were deemed fortunate to be only 17-12 down at half-time, but they managed to convert their chances when on offer, and their strong set-pieces offered good go-forward.

The second half was a similar tale, with England commanding most exchanges, but unable to convert for the most part, before the Junior Boks strung up an opportunity, and again managing to score in the tight with a try from lock Ruben van Heerden under the posts.

Although being starved of possession and failing to manage the game well with aimless kicks and poor execution, South Africa’s strong line-outs on opposition ball and scrum-ward ascendency, gave them a sniff.

From a driving line-out maul, the Junior Boks then converted a penalty from flyhalf Curwin Bosch to extend their lead to 22-17 with approximately nine minutes to play.

With poor exit-plays, especially from fullback Manie Libbok, who had an abysmal display to say the least, as well as the high-expectant Bosch, England seemed to maintain their territorial advantage throughout.

Libbok, as well as centre Damian Willemse were then swooped aside by Mercer, as he broke through both tackles for another try under the poles. England then took a 24-22 lead with just four minutes to play.

Almost cracking under pressure, Bosch attempted at a dismal drop-goal attempt, as he blew an opportunistic field position for South Africa.

Winger Gianni Lombard then in an attempt to link with the backline on the closing minute, let the ball slip out of his grasp, as South Africa in symbolism did not just drop the ball right there, but dropped the game too.

With Augustus having a blinder on the day, complimented by exceptional line-out work and scrumming, while being lead superbly by Captain Ernst van Rhyn, the Junior Boks’ forwards can certainly feel aggrieved by what little their backline managed to achieve on the day.

England are now set to face New Zealand in the final, after the Junior All Blacks beat France 39-26 in the other semi-final. The Junior Boks are scheduled to face France for the second time in the 3rd/4th play-off. The first time they played, the scores were tied 23-23.

Image: England's Captain, Zach Mercer, taking a tackle.