England u20s survived a late scare to beat South Africa u20s 32-31 after a dramatic match in Narbonne and booked their sixth-consecutive World u20 Championship final.
Steve Bates’s side started in ominous fashion with three tries within the first 21 minutes.
An early yellow card for South African number 8 Muller Uys for a late tackle on Marcus Smith saw England tackle full advance, with fullback Tom Parton was the first to go over as being put through by impressive centre Tom Hardwick, who powered over for his own try soon after.
A sensentational score from Ben White after a strong surge through midfield from winger Gabriel Ibitoye helped England lead into a 19-0 lead. Further highlights of big carriers from Sarcens lock Joel Kpoku and the speed of Ibitoye ensured they dominated a large majority of the first half.
South Africa were able to get back into the contest and gained their first points after a sustained period of pressure, with Sazi Saudi going over from close range. And it was only for the defence of England, especially centres Hardwick and Fraser Dingwall as well as the work rate of the backrowers Ben Curry and Ted Hill, that ensured the Baby Springboks didn’t add to their score, with the sides going in 22-7 at the break after a Marcus Smith penalty.
But just like the senior side last weekend, South Africa came further back in the second half with Muller Uys, Ruan Nortje, Manuel Rass and Asenathi Ntlabakanye all running over.
Prop Ntlbakanye and lock Ben-Jason Dixon particularly made a big impact coming off the bench, helping South Africa dominate at the scrum and a lot of the territory.
Yet Marcus Smith kept the scoreboard ticking from the kicking tee and winger Jordan Olowofela seemed to have wrapped up the victory after taking full advantage of a spilled ball following a huge hit from Dingwall on halfway, sprinting off to give England a 32-19 lead.
Two late tries from Rass and Ntlabakanye, making the score 32-31 with just four minutes to play. But England held on to book their place in the last round of the World Championship.
They need to address frailties at the set-pieces in time for the final this Sunday, as well as maintaining team discipline in tight situations, given James Scott’s late sin bin after a successive amount of penalties against them in their own 22.
But they will now be relishing the chance to reclaim the title they lost last year.
They will play hosts France who won the other semi-final against tournament holders New Zealand in the final, after the young Les Blues won 16-7.
15. Tom Parton, 14. Gabriel Ibitoye, 13. Fraser Dingwall, 12. Tom Hardwick, 11. Jordan Olowofela, 10. Marcus Smith 9. Ben White; 1. Alex Seville, 2. Henry Walker, 3. Joe Heyes, 4. Joel Kpoku, 5. James Scott, 6. Ted Hill, 7. Ben Curry (c), 8. Josh Basham.
16. Gabriel Oghre, 17. Ciaran Knight, 18. Ehren Painter, 19. Tom Willis, 20. Aaron Hinkley, 21. Rory Brand, 22. James Grayson, 23. Will Butler.