Having booked to watch England play Sri Lanka in Nottingham it seemed a perfect opportunity to head up to Manchester to watch the future starts on the rugby union world. I’d booked blind to a degree, but was betting on England doing well. That was to be the case and I had the mouthwatering prospect of watching some of the best young talent in the world with 3 great match ups.
- New Zealand v Wales
And the 2 semi-finals
- Ireland v Argentina
- England v South Africa
The choice of venue for the event seemed a little unwise, Manchester is an Association Football hotbed and other than Sale Sharks at the top level, rugby league is the popular sport as far as an oval ball is concerned. Considering the fact that the first game involved the 6 Nations Champions Wales and the All Blacks the crowd was small and didn’t grow to an impressive one by the time the home team appeared. I believe these young men deserved better and a base in the Midlands or the South would have attracted many more rugby fans.
I took the opportunity to enjoy some wonderful rugby so didn’t make notes, that means this will be more of a Phlog than a Blog.
Wales had played New Zealand less than a week earlier and had lost in a very tight game, with only a point splitting the teams. However something very different clearly happened in this game. In order to give the 12 teams involved as much competitive rugby as possible they all stay involved until the final day. This game was for the right to play in the 5th place decider.
I’ve watched a fair amount of age group rugby but have to say it was hard to believe she of the lads in front of us were eligible for an Under 20 match. I can only think a few had very hard paper rounds as they were growing up!
This was to be something of a bad day at the offie for the Welsh as these ‘baby’ All Blacks literally blew them off the pitch. They scored 11 try’s 6 of which were converted by one Jordie Barrett, younger brother of one Beauden Barrett. A 7th was converted by his replacement.
I will always support Wales against pretty much any team other than England (unlike many England fans) But I couldn’t help but shout out in admiration at some of the All Blacks running rugby. It was a sight to behold and they were very deserving of the eventual score New Zealand 71 Wales 12.
Next up was the first semi-final between Ireland and Argentina – the teams stood with their backs to the crowd, in order to face the cameras but it was clear that the wonderful Ireland’s Call was sung with true passion. Much easier to do with a rousing song than the British anthem used by England.
Ireland came out with real intent scoring 3 try’s within 30 minutes, they dominated the first half. Argentina touched down in the last moments of the half the conversion took the score to Ireland 21 Argentina 7.
Ireland prevented the Argentinians from scoring in the second half, scoring another try and 3 penalties to finish on an impressive score of Ireland 37 Argentina 7. The Argentinians were at times petulant in defeat and close to being dirty, something they’ll have to work on if they aim to reach the next level.
It was good to see Niall Saunders of Harlequins come on as the replacement scrum half, having seen him play for the U18’s team. He’s a name to look out for in the future in the Premiership.
The final game of the day saw England matched against South Africa. By chance I was sat close to the parents of the 3 Saracens lads in the team – Max Malins, Matt Gallagher and Billy Walker. I was hoping the whole team would shine, but being a Saracens fan was looking out for those 3 in particular.
Harry Mallinder led his team from Fly Half, showing his versatility as he’s been playing in the centre for Northampton Saints. He’s an impressive player and this was a chance to see his leadership skills. His growing skill base and confidence was clear to see, hopefully we’ll see not only Harry but many of the others in the Premiership in 2016-17.
Things are rosy in the England camp in 2016 and this Under 20’s team played a great game of rugby, posting 6 try’s to South Africa’s 2. They dominated across the pitch, South Africa were lucky not to be playing with 14 men for the majority of the game when a horror tackle on Max Malins was only penalised by a yellow card, it could easily have been red.
And so Ireland and England will contest the Final of this years’ competition, both teams were highly impressive, it should be a great game!