The Junior Boks scored four first-half tries to beat France 31-18 in their third-place play-off in Cremona, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
Although the South Africans were much improved following their 28-20 semi-final defeat to England last Monday, they didn't have it all their own way against France and had to erase an early deficit to clinch the bronze medal.
France started brightly and led 8-0 inside the opening 10 minutes, but Dawie Theron's charges hit their straps as the match progressed, dominating territory and possession which gave the forwards a platform to dictate proceedings.
Flyhalf Lucas Meret opened the scoring with a penalty before wing Arthur Bonneval showed brilliant feet to burst through the Junior Boks' defence to score in the corner. But that was their last points of the half, as the South Africans took command of the match in a devasting spell.
Converted tries by tighthead prop Thomas du Toit and lock Jason Jenkins saw the Junior Boks take the lead for the first time at 14-8. They then took complete control when Dan du Preez went over twice in the dying stages of the half for an imposing 28-8 advantage at the break.
France fought back strongly in the second half to narrow matters, but despite their best efforts, just couldn't catch up.
Tries from Julien Delannoy and Lucas Blanc soon after the restart sparked hopes of a French revival, but Brandon Thomson succeeded with a penalty to extend the Junior Boks' lead and put the result beyond doubt.
Poor discipline yet again by Junior Boks captain Hanro Liebenberg saw him yellow-carded in the 75th minute, but it didn't cost his side.
Junior Springboks – Tries: Dan du Preez (2), Thomas du Toit, Jason Jenkins. Conversions: Brandon Thomson (4). Penalty: Thomson.
France U20 – Tries: Arthur Bonneval, Julien Delannoy, Lucas Blanc. Penalty: Lucas Meret.
Junior Springboks – 15 Warrick Gelant 14 Malcolm Jaer, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Daniel du Plessis, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Brandon Thomson, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (c), 7 Dan du Preez, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Jan van der Merwe, 1 Mzamo Majola.
Subs: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Abongile Nonkontwana, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 22 Tinus de Beer, 23 Grant Hermanus.
France U20 – 15 Alexandre Pilati, 14 Arthur Bonneval, 13 Elliot Roudil, 12 Damien Penaud, 11 Lucas Blanc, 10 Lucas Meret, 9 Gauthier Doubrère, 8 Fabien Sanconnie, 7 Lucas Bachelier (c), 6 Anthony Jelonch, 5 Mathieu Tanguy, 4 Tristan Labouteley, 3 Clément Castets, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Thibaut Estorge
Subs: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Alain Paiva, 18 Quentin Bethune, 19 Julien Delannoy, 20 Mathieu Ugéna, 21 Thomas Fortunel, 22 Pierre Fouyssac, 23 Thomas Ramos.
Photo: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images