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Brave Juniors scrape through

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content on 10 Jun 2013 at 10:00
Tagged with : , , , , , ,

The Junior Springboks withstood a sustained second-half fightback to beat England by 31 points to 24 in France last night, thus remaining well on course for a place in the semi-finals of the 2013 IRB Junior World Championship.

The somewhat unusual competition format means that only teams who win their pools are assured a place in the last four, meaning that this clash was always going to be a veritable quarter-final for both sides. England were highly-rated as usual and came into the game with some big reputations, but it must be said that they started a little like deer caught in the headlights. There was no shortage of physicality from the English at any stage, but they got on the wrong side of the referee far too many times in the opening stanza and were frankly very fortunate not to lose a man early on, such was the frequency of their infringing, particularly at the breakdown. An early try to Bok wing Seabelo Senatla, coupled with a slew of penalties to flyhalf Rob du Preez, saw the Boks take an unassailable-seeming 16-0 lead into the second quarter.

England then started to find a bit more rhythm and threatened the Boks with ball in hand – an alarming propensity for the men in green to fall off first-time tackles playing no small part. Senatla duly stopped the rot in intercepting and sprinting 60 metres for his second with ten minutes of the half to play and his score was soon canceled out as English centre Harry Sloan breezed right through a Handre Pollard tackle attempt to score his side’s first.

The Boks were looking good at half-time, holding a 21-7 lead, but the worrying shift in momentum late in that first half would continue, with English lock Elliot Stooke barreling over two minutes after the break to narrow the gap to just 7. A brief purple patch followed for the Junior Boks, though, as first impressive flanker Jacques du Plessis scored a cracker of a try, followed, it seemed, by Senatla’s third minutes later. That latter try, though, which would have sealed the deal and earned the Boks a bonus point, was disallowed due to a high tackle from lock Irme Herbst earlier in the movement.

Du Preez and and English flyhalf Henry Slade traded penalties, but it was the English who scored the next try, through replacement back Henry Purdy. Slade’s tricky touchline conversion saw them once more within seven and it was only furious defence from the Boks that saw them hold out in the last ten minutes, with England pushing hard for a try that would even the scores. By that stage, both Herbst and English flanker Tom Price had been sent off for punching.

For the Junior Boks, there was some lovely teamwork and fighting spirit displayed, with the silky skills of outside backs Senatla and Cheslin Kolbe again a highlight. While it is a huge achievement to have overcome this important England hurdle, the team will know that many aspects of this performance weren’t good enough, though, with the Baby Blacks, in particular, set to pay close attention to the South African concerns at scrumtime, at the breakdown and on defence.

South Africa U20 (21) 31: Tries: Seabelo Senatla (2), Jacques du Plessis. Conversions: Robert du Preez (2). Penalties: Du Preez (4)
England U20 (7) 24: Tries: Sam Hill, Elliott Stooke, Hendry Purdy. Conversions: Henry Slade (3), Penalty: Slade


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