New Zealand U20 fall short to Junior Wallabies after early red card
Australian Under 20’s coach Nathan Grey has been outspoken and grumpy at the World Under 20 championships.
Had his Junior Wallabies blown victory against New Zealand, a side whose measure they had in June two-test series, he might have had a hernia.
Regrettably, New Zealand lock Tom Allen was yellow carded in the 20th minute for lifting an Australian player past the horizontal in a tackle. Upon review, the sanction was upgraded to a red card meaning Allen was unable to return for the remainder of the contest.
New Zealand was ahead 12-8 when Allen departed but conceding a 6-0 penalty count soon saw blindside Malachi Wrampling-Alec sin binned in the 23rd minute following a team warning for persistent infringements.
Somewhat predictably Australia was able to score two tries and take an 18-12 lead. Once again defending the rolling maul was a headache for New Zealand. Hooker Max Craig alongside beastly No.8 Leafi Heka Talataina were among the best of the Aussie forwards.
Australia played abysmally before the interval. A series of shallow clearances was followed by five consecutive penalties as the ‘Baby Blacks’ piled on 18 unanswered points.
First-five Taha Kemara with his precise and varied passing is an exciting prospect, Wrampling-Alec atoned for his dismissal with some explosive carries, and wing Caleb Tangitau showed the benefits of his time with the All Blacks Sevens.
As undermanned New Zealand naturally tired, Australia was able to create and exploit overlaps. Wings Tim Ryan and Rohan Leahy scored the junior Wallabies’ next three tries with Ryan’s second hurtful for New Zealand who hesitated when the ball bobbled loose and were caught napping blindside. An unlikely Harry McLaughlin-Phillips conversion made it 37-35.
Peter Lakai was named by Mastercard as Man of the Match. The New Zealand No.8 and co-captain never stopped working.
New Zealand conceded their highest score in tournament history and can only repeat their seventh-place finish in 2019 if they win their final match.
By contrast, Australia has made real improvements from the side beaten 69-12 by New Zealand last year but Grey will be frustrated by the lack of consistency. With a one-man advantage for an hour, Australia made hard work of their second victory over the ‘Baby Blacks’ in 2023.
New Zealand U20: 35 (Macca Springer, Caleb Tangitau 2, Malachi Wrampling-Alec 2, Jack Taylor tries; Taha Kemara 2 con, pen, dg)
Australia U20: 44 (Max Craig 2, Henry O’Donnell, Tim Ryan 2, Rohan Leahy, Teddy Wilson tries; Harry McLaughlin-Phillips 3 con, pen)
HT: 25-18, New Zealand.