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IRB Under 20 Championship: Final and 3/4 Place Play-Off
Our rugby scribe takes a look at the IRB U20 Championship final and the 3rd and 4th place play-off being played on Saturday in Manchester.
So after three and a half weeks of pulsating rugby action we’ve reached the final day of the IRB Under 20 Championship. Hosts England will battle it out with Ireland for the right to be crowned 2016 champions while South Africa will look to close out what has been a rather disappointing campaign with a victory over the Argentines in the third and fourth play-off.
Argentina v South Africa | Third/Fourth Play-Off | Saturday 25 June | AJ Bell Stadium | 15:30 (CAT)
To Win (80 Mins)
Argentina 17/10 | Draw 25/1 | South Africa 9/20
This game affords the Junior ‘Boks a perfect opportunity to atone for their second round defeat which pretty much sealed their fate in the tournament. The Argentine’s won’t simply roll over and let the Baby ‘Boks have their revenge, however, as a third place finish will be a historic achievement for the young men from South America.
Dawie Theron's side were caught cold during their 19-13 round two defeat to the Argentines. The South African’s conceded far too many penalties – something they have done throughout the tournament – and were unable to finish off promising attacking moves.
While head coach Dawie Theron will undoubtedly ring the changes for this one, it won’t matter who takes to the field if the young South Africans continue to give away cheap penalties.
Verdict: South Africa 9/20
My money is on the South Africans here. They’ll be determined to make up for a poor showing against England in the semi-finals and the best way to do that would be to put a huge score on the board.
Ireland v England | Final | Saturday 25 June | AJ Bell Stadium | 20:00 (CAT)
To Win (80 Mins)
Ireland 28/10 | Draw 22/1 | England 1/4
Ireland (+8.5) 9/10 | England (-8.5) 9/10
It’s the game all the sides wanted to be in but only two could play. The two finalists have played some fantastic rugby during the tournament with England blowing all-comers aside and Ireland mauling and fighting their way to the final.
As I mentioned, the English have been in scintillating form, running in tries for fun. They dismantled the South Africans in last week’s semi-final running out 39-17 victors. The victory was spearheaded by talismanic ten Harry Mallinder who has been the standout back at the tournament. The Northampton Saints academy representative will look to build on that performance with another solid showing this Saturday.
Ireland also managed to claim a large semi-final victory midweek running out 37-7 victors against a rather jaded Argentine outfit. Much like this weekend’s opponents, Ireland’s mesmeric semi-final display was built around their flyhalf.
Young pivot Johnny Phillips had an absolute blinder kicking three penalties and showing a slick set of hands. He and his centres’ are going to have to be at their best this weekend as the English midfield has been in red hot form.
Verdict: England (-8.5) 9/10
This English side have looked a cut above any other team at the tournament and I really can’t see Ireland keeping pace with them. My money is on the hosts winning the final by a margin in excess of the 8.5 handicap.