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NZ lead competitive U20s competition

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New Zealand lead the way after competitive day one of U20 Championship

New Zealand lead the way after a competitive opening day at the World Rugby U20 Championship 2018.

New Zealand kicked off the defence of their World Rugby U20 Championship title with a ruthless 11-try 67-0 defeat of Japan on a day of twists and turns in France on Wednesday.

The six-time champions were relentless from the outset with Will Tucker racing over with only 50 seconds on the clock and he was followed over the line by Leicester Faingaanuku, who grabbed a brace either side of All Blacks Sevens star Vilimoni Koroi’s effort to wrap up the bonus point inside 18 minutes.

Centre Bailyn Sullivan showed off his pace with a 75-metre scamper to score a try from a kickoff shortly after.

Captain Tom Christie had the final say of the first half as he managed to ground the ball despite a desperate tackle by the Japanese to send his side in 38-0 at half-time.

Winger Jamie Spowart, who had had a try disallowed in the first half, went on to score a hat-trick in the second as New Zealand sent out a powerful message to their competition.

“We’re really happy with how we performed, it was an amazing game to have up first because Japan really challenged us,” New Zealand captain Tom Christie said.

“Maybe the score doesn’t reflect that but they competed really hard at the breakdown and their maul was hard to stop. We’ll go back to the drawing board and have a look at the details and what we want to work on, and really focus on us.”

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The 2018 edition of the premier age-grade tournament is predicted to be the most competitive yet and the opening day lived up to that expectation with four matches decided by less than seven points.

South Africa were forced to dig deep to edge past an impressive Georgia 33-27 before hosts France came from 12 points down to beat Ireland 26-24 in the other Pool C match in Perpignan.

The two matches in Béziers were equally tight affairs. First Italy capitalised on a late Scotland yellow card to snatch a 27-26 victory thanks to Niccolo Taddia’s try at the death, before Wales avenged their 2017 loss to Australia with a 26-21 victory.

Welshman Cai Evans, the son of World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Ieuan Evans, converted tries from centre Ioan Nicholas and replacement winger Joe Goodchild as well kicking four penalties for a 16-point haul on the night.

England, the 2017 runners-up, had to withstand a strong first-half performance by Argentina in the first match in Narbonne before coming through to win 39-18.

Play resumes June 3.

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New Zealand lead the way after competitive day one of U20 Championship