NZ can be world champs, Aussies pay for mistakes


The New Zealand Baby Blacks became the inaugural U20 Rugby Championship champions after defeating the Australian Junior Wallabies 36-25 at Queensland's Sunshine Coast on Sunday.

Winger Stanley Solomon scored twice in the first half to help the New Zealanders take a narrow lead in the second half, but the Aussies rallied after the break with just one point between the two teams with 10 points to play.

With Rico Simpson marking the top five from the sin basket, substitute Sam Coles had two shots on target late in the game as the New Zealanders ran out for what the scoreboard might suggest was a comfortable win.

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But it was anything but that. Both New Zealand and Australia have shown real signs of promise which is very exciting ahead of the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in South Africa late next month.

Here are some takeaways from New Zealand's famous win across the ditch.

New Zealand will compete for the drought-breaking Under-20 Championship title

The Baby Blacks have not won the prestigious World Rugby Under-20 Championship for a long time. Asafo Aumua stole the show with a stunning hat-trick in the 2017 decider against England, which New Zealand won 64-17 in Georgia.

Dalton Papalii, Luke Jacobson and Steven Perofeta also scored on the day. With the twenties being an important milestone for any young player on the rise, going on to win a world title is a springboard for these young stars to shine.

But they failed to win the last three editions of the tournament.

New Zealand have officially been crowned champions of the inaugural Under-20 Rugby Championship after beating Australia on Sunday. Every player and member of staff has been truly outstanding, but there is another title they are chasing.

The New Zealanders want to win it all in South Africa from the end of next month, and after coming through the Junior Rugby Championship with an unbeaten record, there is every reason to believe this will be the team to break New Zealand's U20 dominance.

Backrower Malachi Wrampling-Alec already looks like a black player in waiting, and the duo of Dylan Pledger and Rico Simpson have also caught the eye. This team has the makings of something extra special but it's up to them to prove it.

England, Ireland and France are likely to be the best Northern Hemisphere teams in the tournament. But New Zealand have shown enough that if they bring their best to South Africa, they can match them with any team.

They may be your favorite depending on who you ask.

Stanley Solomon is your name Need To remember

Remember the name Stanley Solomon. The New Zealand Under-20 winger turned heads with a stunning performance against South Africa in the opening match of the tournament 10 days ago, but was left out of the squad to face Argentina.

With the World Rugby Under-20 Championship looming, it made sense for Jonno Gibbs and the rest of the New Zealand coaching staff to rotate their squad. It also gave some players time to rest and recover before the decisive confrontation in the final round.

It was no surprise to see Stanley Solomon return to the starting line-up to play for the Junior Wallabies. Solomon has had more than a week to recover, rest and refocus before the Trans-Tasman Derby and it appears to have paid off.

Suleiman scored the opening try of the competition in the 18th minutey One minute after he received the ball in a wide space down the left edge. Australian backfielder Jack Harley chased down the flank but was never on the same run as the New Zealanders took the lead.

But wait there's more.

Excellent players have the ability to make something out of nothing – turn half-chances into points – and that's exactly what the Baby Blacks' number 11 did before half-time. One of the Australian players threw an errant pass and the winger made the most of it.

Solomon jumped to collect the ball and then beat some quick Australian players to the try line with tremendous speed. It was a crucial score in the context of the match at that stage too, but credit to Solomon that he stood up when the score was counted.

There are a number of future All Blacks in this Baby Blacks squad. Whether or not he will continue to play at Test level for New Zealand is still years away from the answer but Stanley Solomon is still a name to remember.

Australia had to pay the price for mistakes and missed opportunities

The Junior Wallabies may look at this match as the one that got away from them. They were beaten, but it wasn't like they didn't have opportunities to put some pressure on the scoreboard.

With New Zealand leading by six points, fullback Angus Staniforth opened up the field in the final minute of the first half. Staniforth connected with tailback Eden Ekanayake to get one or two before Staniforth was bundled up on contact.

The quick outside back was tackled across the sideline about a meter or less from the try line. It was a tough opportunity, that's for sure, but one that the Australian coaching staff wanted to see their players make the most of.

Moments later, they had a scrum feed five meters from New Zealand's try line. They ended up distributing the ball wide, with Staniforth finding space to run before the New Zealanders won a penalty at the breakdown.

Once again, crisis averted for the Baby Blacks and a moment to reflect for the Junior Wallabies.

There were more mistakes and missed opportunities after the break, including a goal-line foul from hooker Otavio Tuipolo who twice pumped in to gift the New Zealanders a free-kick.

Soon after, with a one-man advantage, substitute Boston Vakavanua was held down over the try line by New Zealand's first-five Rico Simpson. They scored soon after through winger Will McCulloch, to be fair.

But the point stands in the end.

All these simple mistakes add up against a team like New Zealand.

New Zealand were also without top five Rico Simpson for 10 minutes late in the piece after he was sent to the sin box. However, during that period, the Australians were unable to make the most of it on the scoreboard.

However, Australians will learn their lessons and return to normal. They have the makings of a talented team and are likely to surprise some teams at the Under-20 tournament in South Africa within weeks.

Harry McLaughlin Phillips is a difference maker

Harry McLaughlin-Phillips is one of those players who seems to be constantly improving. The Queensland Reds pivot played six matches in Super Rugby Pacific this season before returning his talents to the Junior Wallabies.

After being called up to the Australia Under-20 squad last week, McLaughlin-Phillips was available for selection to play for Baby Black's side. It was no surprise at all to see the Queenslander asked to start in the No.10 jersey against the New Zealanders.

McLaughlin-Phillips converted two penalty kicks in the first half and had a hand in some crucial attempts after the break. The fly-half dispatched winger Will McCulloch for his second attempt with a deft cutting pass in the 62nd minuteSecond abbreviation minute.

However, it must be said that McLaughlin-Phillips sent his kick-off straight into seam after New Zealand took a late lead in the piece. This is a negative, the performance wasn't flawless, but it was still very promising.

There is something special about this rugby talent. Harry McLaughlin-Phillips has a bright future ahead of him and the path to the Junior Wallabies has played a big part in that. The Australian could surprise some teams in South Africa with the fly-half in the outfield.





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