England U20 reached the semi finals of the World Rugby U20 Championship yesterday despite going fown 30-18 to France in their final group match.
England will now face South Africa in their semi final, the side they faced, and beat, twelve months ago in the final.
Form, and a victory during the U20 6 Nations, said England were favourites heading into the game but France came storming out to go 17-3 ahead after just twenty-five minutes, leaving England chasing the game from then on.
As in the opener against Japan, Harlequinsâ€™ former Brighton College number 8 James Chisholm was immense, and he was rewarded for his effort with a try just as the clock was winding down to close the half. Chisholm, recognising that time was an issue and there was a gap in the French defence, took a quick tap penalty and burrowed his way over to reduce the gap to 17-8 at half time.
France again made the early headway in the second half though, scoring a try after some English ill-discipline, a problem for England all day, to take the score to 24-8.
If there is one thing this young England side always appears to be well in control of though, it is the scrum. That was shown once again with twenty minutes or so remaining as they continually piled the pressure on the traditionally strong French scrum, eventually forcing a penalty try from the referee to narrow the gap again to 24-18.
A penalty and a drop goal for the French saw them secure a twelve point lead, one that England had neither the time nor the position to overturn in the dying minutes.
Speaking after the game, England Head Coach Jon Callard said:
â€œCredit to France, they made inroads into our set-piece that caused us some frustration and we compounded errors with errors. We made silly mistakes that we hadnâ€™t made in the tournament so far. Unfortunately, we just made too many of them.â€
â€œFair play to our lads, they stuck at it for long periods in what was a very physical and dogged game.â€
â€œAs I said to them in the changing room, they will feel disappointed. But if they can learn something from this, it will have a purposeful effect heading into the rest of their careers moving forward.â€
In the end though the defeat was not the disaster for England that it might have been after New Zealand and South Africa beat their nearest challengers, Ireland and Australia respectively, by comfortable margins, allowing England safe passage through to the semi final against South Africa.
Full Time: England U20 18-30 France U20
England U20 XV:
15. Aaron Morris (Saracens)
14. George Perkins (Saracens)
13. Nick Tompkins (Saracens)
12. Max ClarkÂ (Bath Rugby)
11. Howard Packman (Northampton Saints)
10. Rory Jennings (Bath Rugby)
9. James Mitchell (Sale Sharks)
1. Ellis Genge (Bristol Rugby)
2. Jack Walker (Yorkshire Carnegie)
3. Paul Hill (Yorkshire Carnegie)
4. Kieran Treadwell (Harlequins)
5. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, captain)
6. Charlie Beckett (Leicester Tigers)
7. Will Owen (Leicester Tigers)
8. James Chisholm (Harlequins)
16. Jack Innard (Exeter Chiefs)
17. Owen Hills (Leicester Tigers)
18. Ciaran Parker (Sale Sharks)
19. Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs)
20. Josh Bainbridge (Yorkshire Carnegie)
21. Will Homer (Bath Rugby)
22. Lloyd Evans (Gloucester)
23. Piers Oâ€™Conor (Wasps)
Tries: Chisholm, Penalty
Penalties: Jennings, Evans