France defend U20 title after battling win over Australia

France are the World Rugby U20 champions for the second time after they defended their title following a thrilling 24-23 triumph over Australia in Argentina.

It was another excellent game in what has been a superb competition and it was Les Bleuets that had the edge at the interval via Theo Lachaud’s and Alex Burin’s tries, while Louis Carbonel added eight points off the tee.

Australia’s response came through Mark Nawaqanitawase and Lachlan Lonergan, who both touched down, before they went in front in the second half as Harry Wilson crossed the whitewash.

However, the French were not done and won the game via the boot of Carbonel, who kicked two more three-pointers to Will Harrison’s one to claim the title for the second year in succession, despite a valiant performance by the Aussies.

The Junior Wallabies have been the most clinical team in this year’s competition and it took them under a minute to display their excellence in attack. Isaac Lucas, who has been exceptional all tournament, drifted on an outside arc and easily found Nawaqanitawase to score in the corner.

That's FAST

Mark Nawaqanitawase scores the second fastest try in U20 Championship final history with this 49 second scorcher for Australia #WorldRugbyU20s pic.twitter.com/zrZZKDt2UZ

— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) June 22, 2019

It was a stunning start and set the tone for a superb game. Buoyed by that opening, the Australians attempted to move the ball wide again, but they overplayed their hand and France pounced.

After gaining possession deep inside the opposition half, Lachaud took an excellent line, powered through the final tackle and touched down to level matters.

Carbonel’s conversion then took Les Bleuets in front before the fly-half added another off the tee to give them a five-point buffer.

Back came their opponents, however, as Harrison reduced the arrears with a three-pointer before the comparatively experienced Semisi Tupou took over. The centre has already featured in Super Rugby and duly displayed his quality by stepping through one tackle and finding front-rower Lonergan, who sprinted down the right to touch down.

That was as good as it got for Australia in the first half, though, as France assumed command. Ill-discipline became an issue for the Junior Wallabies and a needless infringement allowed Les Bleuets to take them to the five-metre line, where Burin crossed the whitewash.

Carbonel then kicked a three-pointer as the 2018 champions went into the break 18-13 ahead, but Australia responded well at the start of the second period.

They pressurised the French line and the dam eventually burst when Wilson powered over from close range, helping them garner a two-point advantage.

With the narrow scoreline, nerves took over and it came down to kicks. Carbonel edged France in front before Harrison returned the favour, but the European outfit had the lead going into the final 10 minutes via their pivot.

The Aussies attempted to hit back but France’s game-management was impressive in the latter stages as they held out to claim another age-grade title.

Back to back champions!

The moment @FFRugby won their second consecutive World Rugby u20 Championship title #WorldRugbyU20s pic.twitter.com/crZUalmdlp

— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) June 22, 2019

The scorers:

For Australia: Tries: Nawaqanitawase, Lonergan, Wilson Con: Harrison Pens: Harrison 2

For France: Tries: Lachaud, Burin Con: Carbonel Pens: Carbonel 4

Australia: 15 Isaac Lucas, 14 Triston Reilly, 13 Semisi Tupou, 12 Noah Lolesio, 11 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Michael McDonald, 8 Will Harris, 7 Fraser McReight (c), 6 Harry Wilson, 5 Trevor Hosea, 4 Michael Wood, 3 Josh Nasser, 2 Lachlan Lonergan, 1 Angus Bell Replacements: 16 Joe Cotton, 17 Bo Abra, 18 Darcy Breen, 19 Rhys Van Nek, 20 Esei Ha’angana, 21 Nick Frost, 22 Carlo Tizzano, 23 Patrick Tafa, 24 Henry Robertson, 25 Ben Donaldson, 26 Kye Oates, 27 Joey Walton, 28 Sione Tui

France: 15 Matthis Lebel, 14 Vincent Pinto, 13 Arthur Vincent (c), 12 Julien Delbouis, 11 Donovan Taofifenua, 10 Louis Carbonel, 9 Leo Coly, 8 Jordan Joseph, 7 Thibault Hamonou, 6 Matthias Haddad, 5 Florent Vanverberghe, 4 Killian Geraci, 3 Alex Burin, 2 Theo Lachaud, 1 Jean-Baptiste Gros Replacements: 16 Rayne Barka, 17 Eli Eglaine, 18 Giorgi Beria, 19 Paul Mallez, 20 Gauthier Maravat, 21 Mathieu Hirigoyen, 22 Loic Hocquet, 23 Quentin Delord, 24 Mathieu Smaili, 25 Antoine Zeghdar, 26 Ethan Dumortier, 27 Alexandre De Nardi

Referee: James Doleman (New Zealand) Assistant referees: Christophe Ridley (England), Ben Blain (Scotland) TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)