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New Zealand U20s vs South Africa U20s takeaways: Solomon the spark in the wet, tall pack dominates

By Ben Smith
Jurenzo Julius of South Africa is tackled during The Rugby Championship U20 Round 1 match between New Zealand and South Africa at Sunshine Coast Stadium on May 02, 2024 in Sunshine Coast, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

New Zealand U20s and South Africa U20s played out the inaugural Rugby Championship U20 match in the aftermath of torrential rain as wet conditions dictated the type of game that would unfold.

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Puddles swamped the pitch after a pre-match downpour and blustery wind made kicking and handling difficult for both teams.

Despite enjoying a dominant first half, New Zealand U20 took only a 3-0 lead to the half-time break which proved to be too little as South Africa U20 mounted a comeback.

The two sides finished with a 13-13 draw. Here are the takeaways from the first Rugby Championship U20 clash.

Tall timber an asset for New Zealand

New Zealand stacked their starting backrow with height which was a noticeable difference over their South African counterparts. Andrew Smith (Chiefs), Johnny Lee (Crusaders), and Malachai Wrampling (Chiefs) gave them five lineout options which proved influential.

The locks Liam Jack and Tom Allen wreaked havoc at the breakdown, winning multiple turnovers as South Africa struggled to retain ball once runners became isolated. New Zealand had 6-2 advantage in breakdown turnovers after 30 minutes.

The New Zealand set-piece operated well considering the conditions. By the second half the extra jumpers had a total read on South Africa’s lineout coming up with multiple steals. New Zealand won a scrum penalty on the very first scrum but after that it was a rather even contest.

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The injection of fresh legs by South Africa helped turn the tide in the second half and they were able to exert control that was missing for the first 55 minutes.

But New Zealand’s pack looked good for the most part and that hopefully will bode well for the World Championships with a tall squad.

Kicking a mixed bag in trying conditions

Kicking for both sides proved difficult, but New Zealand’s kicking game through halfback Ben Donovan, No.10 Cooper Grant and fullback Isaac Hutchinson proved vital in the first half.

On numerous occasions, they chewed off big metres and put South Africa in a bind. They were stuck in their own half for most of the first 40.

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However, New Zealand wasted many of those chances for points in the first half, with seven entries into South Africa’s 22 for only three points which proved vital in the final wash-up.

In the second half, Hutchinson came up with a huge play intercepting a chip kick that looked dangerous before booting deep and pinning South Africa on their five, winning a scrum. From there, New Zealand scored from a wide strike to Stanley Solomon that gave New Zealand an 8-0 lead.

It looked like New Zealand would take the game from there but lapses in execution let South Africa get back into the game.

New Zealand’s goal kickers left five points out there, including a very make-able penalty on the stroke of half.

Stanley Solomon the spark for New Zealand 

The left wing wasn’t involved much in the first half but came up with two big line breaks in the second half, and a finish on the end of a strike play.

His second line break essentially saved the game for New Zealand. They had fallen behind 13-8 and had less than six minutes remaining to do something.

Enter Solomon who used his pace down the left to beat the last man in the line, he went inside the fullback and found an offload for Johnny Lee that nearly ended as a try. On the next phase under advantage, right wing Frank Vaenuku spilled a would-be game-tying try on a cross-field kick.

Although they couldn’t convert that chance, from the lineout maul they went wide again after a few phases and Vaenuku made amends with the leveller. The conversion went wide which left the game tied at 13-all with a minute remaining.

New Zealand the better side but lacked game instinct

New Zealand U20 were in cruise control for most of the game but ended up in a position where they really should have lost the game.

A penalty miss 10 minutes from time by South Africa failed to ice the game, and they were able to salvage a draw.

Just three points from a dominant first half proved costly.

With a penalty in front of the sticks they opted for a scrum about four minutes before the half, and then knocked on at the base, squandering a would-be 6-0 lead. They ended up with a second chance right on the bell, from further back and the kick sailed wide.

They were able to strike first in the second half with a perfect play and wide ball from Rico Simpson to Stanley Solomon for an 8-0 lead but almost immediately gave up a penalty and then a try to concede the lead.

In wet weather, some of the decisions indicated the side was experimenting rather than playing for the win.

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Comments

11 Comments
C
Cheers 82 days ago

Typical crap Aussie weather

B
Bull Shark 82 days ago

The better side seems to be the losing side a lot these days. As far as narrative goes.

Must be the big emergent culture of “participation awards” that have emerged in nanny states.

”It looked like New Zealand would take the game from there but lapses in execution let South Africa get back into the game.

New Zealand’s goal kickers left five points out there, including a very make-able penalty on the stroke of half”.

Sounds like a chronic problem…

I wonder how the better team has lapses in concentration and execution? Or are those not important factors in the grand scheme of total performances?

In 2023, the ABs at least didn’t give up a lead to lose. They just couldn’t execute to get the points and take the lead.

This Baby AB result points to a choke - letting the game slip through your fingers.

In the words of the great Ricky Bobby’s dad - “If you’re not 1st you’re last!”

Loosely translated - if you didn’t win, you’re a loser.

C
Conrad 82 days ago

Couple of things BS missed: wind was behind the Baby Blacks in the first half. Baby Boks got points from a scrum penalty in the final quarter against this ‘dominant pack’, and left three points on the park after a missed penalty.

M
Marius 82 days ago

Another poor articles by a poor journo, nothing new from Ben, at least you are consistently bad lol, geez I will try and watch the match later, clearly Benny was only looking to one end of the pitch, hard to tell whom the Baby Blacks were playing if it wasn’t in the header 😄😄

G
Gert 82 days ago

Nz should have won.

I didn't watch the game, but the ref was at fault and the bounce of the ball and the Bokke used the Bomb squad and the Bokke slow the game down and the Bokke scrum. They should remove the scrum. The Bokke are to strong. Not fair. Nz should have won

C
Craig 82 days ago

Well done Baby Boks we will take the Draw.
No 9 senseless long passes in those conditions. let’s move on and hope for some good weather

c
christopher 82 days ago

How did it end a draw. South Africa didn’t score any points as far as I can see

L
Lou Cifer 82 days ago

Were the Baby Boks part of this game or did the Baby Blacks play themselves?🤔 That man Bin Smuth once again does a little write-up on the game and it is like 95% about the Baby Blacks🤣

Glad he ends off with the Baby Blacks were actually in cruise control for most of the game and weren’t actually playing for the win WTF🤣🤣

Maybe he was expecting the Baby Blacks to run rampant….

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