Our rugby writer takes a look at Saturday’s second round of IRB Under 20 Championship fixtures.
Things started off so well for me last Tuesday. My tips had come in for the opening two games and my back balance was looking a lot hefty than it had the previous day. But then, the Australians had to go and ruin it.
I was fully expecting the Junior Wallabies to put a big score over the Scot’s but a red card and some brilliant kicking from Scottish ten Adam Hastings would make me rue my decision to back the Junior Wallabies to clear a 12.5 handicap.
Things only got worse from there on in with Wales capitulating against the Irish and New Zealand failing to clear their handicap. There was to be a slight bit of redemption for yours truly as Italy managed to keep it with the +40.5 handicap but that gives scant cause for celebration.
While my wallet has taken a bit of a hit, I have learnt some valuable lessons from that first round of fixtures.
I’ll put my newly garnered knowledge to the test below!
Australia v Italy | Saturday 11 June | AJ Bel Stadium | 14:30
To Win (80 mins)
Australia 1/100 | Draw 33/1 | Italy 12/1
Australia (-29.5) 9/10 | Italy (+29.5) 9/10
Ah, the good old red mist. It’s a punters and coaches worst nightmare. Having tipped the Australians to “canter” to victory against a Scottish outfit, who struggled in the U20 Six Nations, I was left with the old proverbial egg spattered upon my face.
While it would be amiss to not give some of the credit to the Scots, the Australians really did dig their own graves last Tuesday. Over complicated backline moves, handling errors, and an inaccurate kicking game severely hampered the Junior Aussies but two moments of madness from centre Campbell Magnay were the determining factors in this one.
The Queensland Reds man had received a yellow for a dangerous tackle early on in the first stanza. Most of us would learn our lesson and make sure we made clean tackles for the remainder of the 80-minutes. Not Mr Magnay though. Channelling his inner James Dalton, the burly outside decided he’d perform a neck roll tackle – something referees have a zero tolerance policy for now – and was subsequently red carded.
While the Australians did launch a few promising attacks after Magnay had left the field, they were never going to get the victory being a man down. Scotland held their nerve and ran out 15-10 victors, leaving the Junior Wallabies with almost no hope of making it to the semi-finals of the competition.
The Italians also got their campaign underway with a defeat. They were soundly beaten by an impressive English outfit but did manage to keep the score line within the +40.5 margin.
Verdict: Australia (-29.5) 9/10
If they can cut out those silly handling errors and be a bit more clinical, then the Australians should be able to clear the – 29.5 margin.
New Zealand v Ireland | Saturday 11 June | Manchester City Stadium | 14:30
To Win (80 Mins)
New Zealand 1/50 | Draw 28/1 | Ireland 9/1
New Zealand (-24.5) 9/10 | Ireland (+24.5) 9/10
New Zealand once again proved that they will be the team to beat at the Junior Championships by opening up their campaign with a 55-0 victory over Georgia in horrific conditions. While most of their counterparts struggled to keep the handling errors down on the opening day, the Kiwis put in a virtuoso display and demonstrated why they are cut above all the other teams at the tournament.
While the New Zealanders ran the Georgians ragged, the Irish produced the shock result of the round. Having been 17 points down with less than 10 minutes on the board, the Irish stormed back into the game and eventually ran out 26-25 victors.
So how’s this one going to play out? Well, the Irish juniors will come into this one in buoyant mood and they’ll try and take the game to the Baby All Blacks. This could backfire, however, as the Kiwis are lethal on turnover ball. If Ireland cough the pill up deep inside opposition territory don’t expect it to be kicked away, instead the Junior All Blacks will run it right back from whence it came.
Verdict: New Zealand (-24.5) 9/10
While I was highly impressed by the young men from the ‘Emerald Isle’, I don’t think they’ve got enough about them to challenge this All Black side. Back the ‘Baby Blacks’ on the -24.5 handicap.
France v Japan | Saturday 11 June | AJ Bell Stadium | 16:45
To Win (80 Mins)
France 1/100 | Draw 33/1 | Japan 14/1
France (-35.5) 9/10 | Japan (+35.5) 9/10
Bit of a tricky one up next with the French taking on Japan. Le Baby Blue put in a decent first half shift against the Argentines on Tuesday but capitulated in the second stanza and ended up going down by nine points. Japan put in a similar display against South Africa, dominating the first half and taking a 19-14 lead into the sheds. It was all South Africa in the second stanza though, and the game ended 59-19 in favour of the Junior ‘Boks.
It will be interesting to see how both sides approach this one after Tuesday’s defeats. The French will know that a bonus-point victory would be the only thing keeping them in the hunt for a semi-final berth, and while the expectations for this Japanese squad are much lower than that of their opponents, they also know a bonus point victory could keep them in the hunt for what would be a miraculous achievement of making the semi-finals of the tournament.
Verdict: Japan (+35.5) 9/10
I can see this Japanese outfit giving the French a difficult time. And while I fully expect the Junior Frenchmen to get a win I doubt they’ll clear the –35.5 handicap.
Wales v Georgia | Saturday 11 June | Manchester City Academy Stadium | 16:45
To Win (80 Mins)
Wales 1/100 | Draw 33/1 | Georgia 14/1
Wales (-39.5) 9/10 | Georgia (+39.5) 9/10
Wales were another team that really left me disappointed last week. Having taken a 17-0 lead inside the opening few minutes of the game, I decided to flick the channel over to the Australian game thinking that Wales had already won it. When I switched back over I was shocked to see that Ireland had taken a one-point lead heading into the final 10 minutes of the game. Despite Wales bombarding the Irish try line, they were unable to overturn the lead.
Georgia also got their campaign off to a losing start going down 55-0 to a rampant Junior All Black outfit. It must be remembered that this tournament is more about exposure for the young Georgians and they are unlikely to get a win or even a losing bonus point.
Verdict: Wales (-39.5) 9/10
It’s a large handicap but I fancy the Welsh to pass it. They looked good with ball in hand during the opening 10 minutes last week and if they can get their defensive structure right, I can see them taking this Georgian side to task.
South Africa v Argentina | Saturday 11 June | AJ Bell Stadium | 19:00
To Win (80 Mins)
South Africa 1/8 | Draw 28/1 |Argentina 9/2
South Africa (-14.5) 9/10 | Argentina (+14.5) 9/10
The Baby ‘Boks opener was definitely a tale of two halves. Having been given a shock wake-up call by their Japanese opponents, Dawie Theron’s side showed a lot of heart to come back and win the game by 59 points to 19.
The Argentine’s showed even more spirit than the Baby ‘Boks in their comeback victory over the French. Trailing by nine points with little over 20 minutes left in the game, the Argentinian youngsters hit back with two late tries and a penalty which saw them run out 25-14 victors.
Verdict: South Africa (-14.5) 9/10
South Africa should have enough quality to see off this spirted Argentine outfit.
England v Scotland | Saturday 11 June | Manchester City Academy Stadium | 19:00
To Win (80 Mins)
England 1/7 | Draw 25/1 | Scotland 9/2
England (-12.5) 9/10 | Scotland (+12.5) 9/10
This is arguably the game of the round. The Scottish were extremely impressive against the Aussies last time out with pivot Adam Hastings stealing the show. The English also put in a magnificent display against the Italians running out 48-10 victors at the Manchester City Academy Stadium grounds.
This should be a hell of a contest with both teams possessing impressive packs of forwards and great halfback pairings. This game may well be decided by an individual error or a moment of brilliance.
Verdict: England 1/7
That handicap looks a bit too large for my liking. My advice here is to back England on the straight win at 1/7.