The two semi-finals in the Junior World Championship turned out to be exciting as England and New Zealand moved into Sunday’s final (as I predicted!).
England started well against South Africa and led by 5 at halftime (17-12). But in the second half the junior Boks were aggressive going ahead 17-22 and looking good for their lead.
But with 5 minutes left captain Zach Mercer crashed over under the posts for his second try – Max Malins conversion took it to 22-24.
SA still had a chance to steal it with a drop goal but it was missed.
A tough game that will have left England with more than a few bruises.
The other semi-final between NZ and France started with a stand-off between the two teams – neither being prepared to move after the Haka – they stood for over a minute staring at each other.
From that beginning you might have expected fireworks – and there were, but only from NZ in the first half. They blitzed the French and were 29-0 up at halftime – although one of their tries came courtesy of a forward pass that Joe Montana would have been proud of.
The only aggressive response from the French forwards was a nasty kick that landed Baptiste Pesenti in the bin – it could easily have been red!
Soon after halftime they stretched the lead to 36-0 and you might have thought a cricket score was on the cards – I certainly did!
They had looked unbeatable – hooker Asafo Aumua did a very credible impersonation of Dane Coles and when he was stopped Tiaan Falcon pulled off a sublime pass behind his back to orchestrate a brilliant NZ try –
The French however, showed England just how to stop the NZ side and scored an unanswered 26 points (except for a penalty) with 4 tries of their own.
You had to wonder what might have happened with that forward pass if the TMO hadn’t been Stevie Wonder.
The final is on Sunday at 2.45 – live on ITV4.