New Zealand Rugby ended their four-year wait for a fifth title in the World Rugby U20 Championship at the weekend. In a fitting climax to the highly competitive tournament, the Kiwis ended England's two-year reign as champions by defeating them 21-16 in the final in Cremona, Italy. The third place play-off resulted in a 31-18 victory for South Africa, relegating France to fourth place.

Path to the final

The two sides had taken very different paths en route to the final itself. England had been well beaten by the French in their final pool match, pitting them against a strong South African side in the semi-finals.

They had come through that challenge with flying colours though, defeating the Junior Springboks 28-20.

New Zealand by contrast had been faultless in their run to the final, winning all three of their pool games and then putting the French to the sword 45-7 in their last-four clash in Calvisano.

The final

Although perhaps the slight favourites going into the final, it was England who opened the scoring through Max Clark's try on four minutes, the centre latching on to Rory Jennings pass to go over. Jennings added the conversion to put the holders into a 7-0 lead.

Otere Black cut the deficit with a penalty for the Kiwis shortly afterwards, but the seven-point advantage was restored when Jennings successfully landed a penalty kick of his own.

Re-jig works well

As New Zealand injuries forced a re-jig of the backs, substitute winger Vince Tavea-Aso benefited from some loose defensive work by their rivals shortly after entering the contest. His unconverted try on 26 minutes in the corner brought the match back into the balance at 10-8. Black atoned for the missed conversion just before the interval, his penalty edging the All Blacks narrowly ahead 11-10 at the break.

NZ extend lead

Quick thinking by New Zealand six minutes into the second period ultimately earned them a try from their number eight. They opted for a quick tap instead of taking the penalty, recycling the ball expertly to allow Akira Ioane to dive over the line. Black's conversion extended the lead to a commanding 18-10.

Sin bin for Ioane

Any thoughts that the match was over were soon dispelled though, as following Ioane's yellow card for allegedly tackling without using his arms, England profited. Two well-taken penalties by Jennings reduced England's arrears to just two points with over 20 minutes left to play.

Black pushed the lead out to 21-16 with a further penalty and with Ioane restored to the team after his sin-binning, the New Zealanders were able to hold on for their hard-earned victory.

Trophy to Kiwis

Atu Moli was the proud captain who held the winning trophy aloft, following in the footsteps of the likes of current senior international Aaron Cruden, the event being a stepping stone for many to full senior honours.