England U20 bounced back from their defeat to France to stun favourites South Africa and reach the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship.
It is Englandâ€™s third final in a row and, having won the previous two, they will head into this one full of confidence. Their 28-13 victory over South Africa was as assured as their loss to France was sloppy, with commanding displays all over the field but in particular from their forward pack, with number 8 James Chisholm excelling, while Rory Jennings guided proceedings expertly from fly half.
Jennings opened the scoring early on with a penalty and he exchanged those with South Africa fly half Brendon Thomson for the opening twenty minutes, bringing the scores to 6-6.
While the scores were level though, the discipline was not. South Africa were stuggling to stick within the refereeâ€™s guidelines and were guilty of a string of high tackles, two of which saw them receive yellow cards.
During the second, with the England scrum a man up, James Chisholm scored the first try of the game, dotting down as his pack drove over the South African try line, banishing last weekâ€™s scrummaging woes.
That scrum was again to prove a valuable source of points as the clock ticked towards the half. This time there was no need for Chisholm to get involved as the referee waltzed straight under the posts for a penalty try and an easy conversion for Jennings that saw England go in 18-6 ahead at the break.
The second half saw South Africa come out ready and firing but England weathered the storm for fifteen minutes, and then rode it out altogether with a Jennings penalty to take them 21-6 ahead.
With 57 minutes gone came the moment the game was decided, arguably. South Africa had been turning down penalties from all angles, but with a little chip from infront of the posts they had no option but to take the points. Except that inexplicably Thomson missed. In that moment you felt the wind had finally stopped blowing altogether for the 2012 champions.
That feeling was confirmed a little over ten minutes later as Nick Tompkins, a joy to watch in both attack and defence in the centre, first danced and then barged his way over the tryline to extend Englandâ€™s advantage even further.
Jenningsâ€™ conversion made it 28-6 with ten minutes to go, and Englandâ€™s celebrations told you everything you needed to know. This game was done.
There was time for South Africa to score a converted try, but with just two minutes left on the clock following that score, there was no time for a comeback from the side England faced in last yearâ€™s final.
It will be a different opponent for England this year though. New Zealand will be the opponents this time, and after a rampant display against France in the other semi final, which saw them win by a brilliant 45-7 margin, they will be a formidable opponent.
In Tevita Li and Akira Ioane, among others, they have players who already look absolutely certainties to be global forces. However England are back to back champions and have talent of their own. A fascinating final awaits us on Saturday evening at 19.30.
Being back to back champions means little to this England side though, they want their own glory, as captain Charlie Ewels alluded to after the game:
â€œThis team didnâ€™t win the last two yearâ€™s, U20s teams are different every year. This team is trying to build its own legacy.â€
Full Time: England U20 28-13 South Africa 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. Will Witty (Newcastle Falcons)
5. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, Captain)
6. Lewis Ludlam (Northampton)
7. Will Owen (Leicester Tigers)
8. James Chisholm (Harlequins)
16. Jack Innard (Exeter Chiefs)
17. Sebastian Adeniran-Olule (Harlequins)
18. Ciaran Parker (Sale Sharks)
19. Kieran Treadwell (Harlequins)
20. Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs)
21. Will Homer (Bath Rugby)
22. Lloyd Evans (Gloucester)
23. Piers Oâ€™Conor (Wasps)
Tries: Chisholm, Penalty, Tompkins
Conversions: Jennings x2
Penalties: Jennings x3