Jun 11, 2015
England U20 through despite loss
Saracens Academy trio Aaron Morris, Nick Tompkins and George Perkins will face South Africa in the World Rugby Under 20 Championship semi-final despite their England side going down 30-18 to France in their final group match in Viadana.
Though Jon Callard’s charges chalked up two tries on the back of dominant scrummaging, they never recovered from conceding a 17-3 deficit in the opening 25 minutes and were left to rue an inaccurate, indisciplined display.
In the wake of a first loss since the opening match of the Six Nations against Wales, England endured a nervous wait to see whether they had made the last four, but favourable results in other pools set up a re-match of last season's tournament decider.
“Credit to France,” said Callard after seeing his team overturned on a hot day in northern Italy. “They made inroads into our set-piece that caused us some frustration and we compounded errors with errors.
“We made silly mistakes that we hadn’t made in the tournament so far. Unfortunately, we just made too many of them.
“Fair play to our lads, they stuck at it for long periods in what was a very physical and dogged game.
“As I said to them in the changing room, they will feel disappointed. But if they can learn something from this, it will have a purposeful effect heading into the rest of their careers moving forward.”
Led by dynamic hooker Camile Chat and burly back-rower Sekou Macalou, France enjoyed gain-line ascendancy in the early stages and went 3-0 up when full back Thomas Ramos converted a penalty from the first scrum of the game.
Although England rallied and got into their attacking shape, their lineout was put under huge pressure too and a set-piece platform never really materialised.
A stray pass in England’s midfield saw Ramos swoop and sprint towards the line and only a superb covering tackle from wing George Perkins spared another set-back.
More fine defence from Jack Walker, Aaron Morris and Howard Packman kept France at bay, but the reigning champions went 10-0 down when Les Bleus captain Lucas Bachelier snatched up a loose ball to put centre Damian Penaud (son of former Saracens fly-half, Alain) under the posts.
While a fine strike from the tee of Bath Rugby fly half Rory Jennings kept England in touch, Penaud was soon in for a second after picking off an interception and tearing home from 70 metres.
Harlequins No 8 James Chisholm did not relent all afternoon, careering into contact and winning collisions all over the field.
Fittingly, it was he that gave England hope on the stroke of half-time, tapping a penalty and surging across the whitewash following a strong scrum to make it 17-8 to France at the break.
However, any momentum was short-lived. England gave away a breakdown penalty straight after the resumption and France’s lineout drive was in action, skipper Bachelier dotting down. Ramos’ conversion stretched the lead to 24-8.
A shove from England’s scrum provided a lifeline when referee George Conway signalled for a penalty try on the hour mark but, although replacement scrum half Will Homer brought verve and energy, France closed out the game very well.
Ramos’ second penalty complemented a neat drop-goal from Lucas Meret, forcing England to wait on other results in the final round of group matches.
With New Zealand recording a comfortable victory over Ireland and South Africa seeing off Australia, the holders are still alive in this competition.