U19 2007 RWC - NZ Book spot in Div A Final
19 Apr 2007
New Zealand will face South Africa in the Division A final at the IRB Under 19 World Championship after the Baby Blacks overcame Wales 36-12 in their semi final at Ravenhill on Tuesday 17 April.
The score line was virtually the same as when the two sides met at the same venue in the opening round of pool matches, New Zealand winning 37-14 to get their campaign to reclaim the title after two final losses off to the perfect start.
New Zealand, though, did not have this semi final all their own way with Wales producing a strong second half display to the delight of their contingent in the crowd. Ultimately though it was New Zealand’s three first half tries that ended hopes of a northern hemisphere finalist.
Drafted in to replace the injured Israel Dagg at full back, Trent Renata kicked a penalty in the first minute to open the scoring for New Zealand. Six minutes later centre Jackson Willison carved open the Welsh defence to score an impressive individual try.
Renata added the conversion and then cancelled out a penalty from Wales wing Leigh Halfpenny with one of his own to give New Zealand a 13-3 lead after only 14 minutes. This quickly became 18-3 when Renata rounded off a great piece of back play to score in the corner.
Wing Zach Guildford scored New Zealand’s third try of the half after Kade Poki set off on one of his exciting runs before finding centre Robert Fruean, who had scored a hat trick of tries against Wales in the pool game.
Fruean threw a long pass to Guildford, who wasn’t going to be denied his try from 22 metres out. Wales were forced to make a number of changes, including taking off replacement David Langdon after only five minutes on the field when he suffered a fractured cheekbone.
The lengthy stoppage while Langdon was treated by medics allowed his Welsh teammates to regroup and they duly reduced the deficit to 23-9 at half time after two further penalties from the boot of Halfpenny, who went into this match as the leading point scorer in Division A.
Halfpenny kicked his fourth penalty of the match shortly after the break to bring Wales back to 23-12 and keep alive their hopes of a revival against a New Zealand who were starting to allow a few errors to creep into their game.
Once more Renata cancelled out Halfpenny’s penalty within minutes with an effort of his own. Wales though continued to battle and play their hearts out, but New Zealand managed to keep them at bay despite not playing at their best.
Renata kicked his fourth penalty of the match before a late try from Winston Stanley wrapped up the victory, the replacement hitting a great line through the Welsh midfield to touch down. Renata converted the try, taking his personal tally for the game to 21 points.
New Zealand will now face South Africa, hoping to avenge their loss in the 2005 final. This match kicks off at 19.30 local time at Ravenhill on Saturday, while Wales will look to bounce back in the third place playoff against 2006 champions Australia in the 17.30 match at the same venue.
New Zealand coach Kieran Crowley: “We started well and got three good tries, but I’m a little disappointed with our second half display. Credit to Wales as they took the game to us in the second half, but we have to look at our phase play for the final.”
New Zealand captain Chris Smith: “It was a physical encounter and we will expect the same from South Africa. I don’t believe we have peaked yet, but a semi final win is a win.”
New Zealand full back Trent Renata: “Good strength in the squad keeps us on our toes, it’s great to be part of such a squad.”
New Zealand wing Zach Guilford: “I was delighted to score again tonight, we’ve had another great win and look forward to Saturday.”
Wales captain Sam Warburton: “Individual errors cost us tonight, but the guys put up a great fight in the second half. We want to get third place and to do that we will work on our weaknesses and try to exploit the Australians.”
Wales coach Justin Burnell: “We were always going to be up against it. Coming in as underdogs suited us and we showed what we could do in the second half. We are a team of honest players and I generally feel that we can take third spot.”