France won their first-ever World Rugby U20 Championship after a 33-25 victory against England in Beziers on Sunday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The hosts, whose previous highest finish had been fourth, were steered by a composed performance from flyhalf Louis Carbonel, who kicked 23 of his team’s points and set up their final try.
The French pack, led by outstanding performances from Jordan Joseph and Demba Bamba, also played a massive role in the victory as they shunted the England scrum backwards and were relentless at the breakdown.
England saw plenty of the ball throughout the game, with Marcus Smith constantly asking questions of the French defence by taking the ball to the line and trying to put his teammates into a gap with an offload.
However, it was the hosts who opened the scoring after Joseph won a turnover penalty which Carbonel slotted. Carbonel added a second penalty, before Smith got England on the board with a penalty of his own.
France won the ball back from the subsequent kick-off, taking possession into England’s 22. After a 5m scrum, flank Cameron Woki showed great strength to finish off in the corner and take France to an 11-3 lead.
Carbonel kicked a third penalty before England went on the offensive, taking possession to France’s 5m line and, after 23 phases, Jordan Olowofela was found in space out wide to make it a six-point game at half-time.
Carbonel kicked three penalties early in the second half to push his side into a two-score lead again after France received a blow when Romain Ntamack was withdrawn at the break due to an injury.
England finally got the better of France at the scrum after changes were made in their front row, with Smith kicking his second penalty to bring the visitors into double digits.
Carbonel slotted yet another penalty to restore France’s lead and leave England with it all to do in the final 10 minutes. The visitors gave themselves hope when substitute prop Joe Heyes muscled his way over after an initial break from Rory Brand.
However, France won a penalty from the kick-off, choosing to go for a lineout. After an initial carry from the forwards, Carbonel put a grubber through which was dotted down by Adrien Seguret.
England finished with a flourish as Olowofela went over for his brace after running on to a good offload from fellow wing Gabriel Ibitoye, but it was all too late as France claimed a memorable win.
France – Tries: Cameron Woki, Adrien Seguret. Conversion: Louis Carbonel. Penalties: Carbonel (7).
England – Tries: Jordan Olowofela (2), Joe Heyes. Conversion: James Grayson (2). Penalties: Marcus Smith (2).
France – 15 Clement Laporte, 14 Lucas Tauzin, 13 Pierre Louis Barassi, 12 Romain Ntamack, 11 Maxime Marty, 10 Louis Carbonel, 9 Arthur Coville (c), 8 Jordan Joseph, 7 Cameron Woki, 6 Antonin Berruyer, 4 Thomas Lavault, 5 Killian Geraci, 3 Demba Bamba, 2 Guillaume Marchand, 1 Jean Baptiste Gros.
Subs: 16 Maxime Lamothe, 17 Ugo Boniface, 18 Daniel Brennan, 19 Pierre-Henri Azagoh, 20 Charlie Francoz, 21 Jules Gimbert, 22 Adrien Seguret, 23 Vicent.
England – 15 Tom Parton, 14 Gabriel Ibitoye, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Tom Hardwick, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Ben White, 8 Josh Basham, 7 Ben Curry (c), 6 Ted Hill, 5 James Scott, 4 Joel Kpoku, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Henry Walker, 1 Alex Seville.
Subs: 16 Gabriel Oghre, 17 Ciaran Knight, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Tom Willis, 20 Aaron Hinkley, 21 Rory Brand, 22 James Grayson, 23 Will Butler.
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) June 17, 2018
Photo: Sylvain Thomas/AFP/Getty Images