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NZ knocked out of Under-20s

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Dramatic day ends with New Zealand failing to make the Under-20 semi-finals

Wednesday’s closing pool fixtures at the Under-20s World Cup in Argentina provided a feast of entertainment that left the host nation celebrating a semi-final clinching win over 2018 champions France on the same day that New Zealand were eliminated from the tournament on the back of their 25-17 loss to South Africa.

The South Africans and the Kiwis arrived into their meeting in Rosario deadlocked on 10 points apiece after each had wins over Georgia and Scotland in the opening rounds. However, rather than both sides producing a result that would have seen both teams progress to the last four, South Africa’s first-half dominance proved vital.

The led 19-3 at the break and while New Zealand managed to claw back some of that deficit in the second half, they still finished eight points adrift in a 25-17 defeat. 

Their failure to clinch a losing bonus point was critical as it meant they finished fifth best in the overall rankings, one point behind fourth-place France who will now play South Africa in the semi-finals. 

New Zealand thought it was mission accomplished with just five minutes remaining when they scored a converted try through Lalomilo Lalomilo to cut the margin to five points.

However, they were left crestfallen by a penalty two minutes from time by Sanele Nohamba which denied them the all-important bonus point they needed to progress. They will now play Wales in a semi-final play-off for fifth place. 

Argentina will take on Australia on the other side of the draw following their thrilling 47-26 win over the French, who came into the tournament as defending champions following their win in the 2018 final over England. 

Ireland’s 38-14 win over Italy earlier on Wednesday meant that the English were already out of the semi-final reckoning before they even kicked off against Australia in Santa Fe. They had lost to Ireland and struggled to an unimpressive victory over Italy. 

However, they finally found their feet versus an already qualified Australia and they ran out convincing 56-33 winners with an eight-try performance that featured two scores from Worcester’s Ted Hill. That was enough to earn them a fifth-place semi-final fixture against Ireland, their opening round nemesis.

The day’s other eye-catching result was Georgia’s deserved 17-12 win over Scotland.

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Dramatic day ends with New Zealand failing to make the Under-20 semi-finals