World U20s 2015: England reach semi-finals despite France defeat
Defending champions scrape through Pool A as best runners-up to set up clash with South Africa on Monday
England lost their final Pool A match of the World Rugby U20 Championship to France but still qualified for the semi-finals.
Jon Callard’s side went down 30-18 at the Stadio Luigi Zaffanella and were made to wait on other results before their place in the last four was confirmed.
As 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.
An enthralling end to day three of the tournament saw England qualify as best runners-up – keeping their title defence alive – after South Africa cruised to a 46-13 victory over Australia, but they will face the top-seeded Baby Springboks on Monday in a repeat of last year’s thrilling final while France will take on New Zealand in the second semi-final.
With England and France both undefeated from their opening two matches, the winner was guaranteed a place in the semi-finals as pool winners.
France dominated the opening stages, racking up a 17-3 lead inside 25 minutes as they made the most of the RBS U20 6 Nations champions’ uncharacteristic errors
“Credit to France,” Callard told the England Rugby website.
“They made inroads into our set-piece that caused us some frustration and we compounded errors with errors.
“We made silly mistakes that we hadn’t made in the tournament so far. Unfortunately, we just made too many of them.
“Fair play to our lads, they stuck at it for long periods in what was a very physical and dogged game.
“As 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.”
Les Bleuts were first on the board with a penalty from full-back Thomas Ramos when England fell foul of the referee at the first scrum.
That lead should have been extended in the opening quarter when Ramos took off on long run for the tryline only to be caught and hauled down by George Perkins.
England’s best work early seemed to be in defence as several players thwarted French attacks, but it was only delaying the inevitable and France were awarded for their attacking intent when captain Lucas Bachelier pounced on a loose ball and sent centre Damian Penaud under the posts.
England got on the scoreboard with a penalty from Rory Jennings, but France soon extended their lead when Penaud latched on to an interception and raced almost 70 metres for his second score.
There was some consolation from the first half for the Red Rose when all-action Harlequins number eight James Chisholm drove over the tryline from a tap penalty with Jennings converting to make it 20-8 to the French.
There was worse to come for Callard’s charges when they conceded another penalty at the breakdown soon after the restart with Bachelier going over after a strong lineout drive.
Irish referee Gary Conway awarded England a penalty try on the hour mark as England’s dominant pack continued to cause problems for the French with replacement outside-half Lloyd Evans slotting the easy conversion, before adding a penalty with 24 minutes remaining.
Ramos’ second penalty on 70 minutes pushed the result further away from England with outside-half Lucas Meret landing a drop-goal with three minutes remaining to ice the win for the French, who return to the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since 2011.