France claimed back-to-back U20 Championship titles after beating a spirited Australia outfit 24-23 in a closely contested final in Rosario on Saturday.
The French side – with several of last year’s U20 representatives, including Louis Carbonel and Jordan Joseph, back in action – delivered a well-composed performance to successfully defend their U20 crown.
Flyhalf Carbonel and No 8 Joseph were industrious for Les Bleus, with the former calmly keeping the scoreboard ticking over and the latter using all his experience to come up with a superb individual defensive performance.
France led their Australian counterparts 18-13 at the break courtesy of tries by front-rowers Theo Lachaud and Alex Burin and two penalties and a conversion from the boot of Carbonel.
The lead exchanged hands regularly, though, and Australia hit the front twice with scores from Mark Nawaqanitawase and Lachlan Lonergan before eventually conceding the advantage on the stroke of half time.
With a 90% share of possession and 75% territorial dominance in the opening 15 minutes after the resumption, Australia started the second half in a position of strength. The Aussies were relentless with their ball carries. They probed away at the line and their efforts were rewarded when flank Harry Wilson bashed his way through traffic to score.
With the Junior Wallabies back in the lead, Carbonel and his opposite number Will Harrison traded kicks as the sides continued to punch and counter-punch in an attempt to seize total control of proceedings.
When Australia were caught streaking offside, Carbonel slotted his fourth penalty to regain the lead for France. Australia refused to give up and started to flex their muscles on attack, running the ball from all over the field. But just as they made headway, a handling error would stifle their progress.
And with their scrum playing second fiddle to the French pack at the set piece, Australia were duly made to rue those unforced mistakes as it allowed France to hold on to win another title.
Meanwhile, England outlasted bitter rivals Wales 45-26 in the fifth-place playoff, New Zealand hammered Ireland 40-17 to wrap up seventh place, Italy finished in ninth position after beating Georgia 29-17, and Fiji shocked Scotland 59-34 in a highly entertaining encounter to decide 11th place.
France U20 – Tries: Theo Lachaud, Alex Burin. Conversion: Louis Carbonel. Penalties: Carbonel (4).
Australia U20 – Tries: Mark Nawaqanitawase, Lachlan Lonergan, Harry Wilson. Conversion: Will Harrison. Penalty: Harrison (2).