New Zealand ended a four-year wait for their fifth World Rugby U20 Championship title after beating England 21-16 in a hard-fought final in Italy.
Atu Moli became the fifth New Zealand captain to lift the distinctive World Rugby U20 Championship title in Cremona, following in the footsteps of Chris Smith, Aaron Cruden, Tyler Bleyendaal and Luke Whitelock who did so from 2008 to 2011 respectively.
The final at the Stadio Giovanni Zini ebbed one way and then the other with New Zealand desperate to end a four-year drought and England seeking a third title in a row.
New Zealand coach Scott Robertson labelled the win a “tough arm-wrestle” before revealing the motivation that had inspired his charges to the title.
“Our theme this year was the Italian campaign of the second division, which involved the New Zealand Maori battalion as well, and we used a lot of their themes when they were in Italy. They fought hard and had their final in Trieste. We used that tonight,” said Robertson.
Earlier on Saturday, the battle to avoid relegation to the World Rugby U20 Trophy in 2016 went right down to the final play with Samoa winger Malu Falaniko having a kick from just inside the Italian half to win the match. His kick fell agonisingly short and Italian players fell to their knees in relief, the 20-19 victory in Stadio Giovanni Zini ensuring they will play in next year’s Championship in England.
South Africa finished in third place at the tournament after beating France, 31-18, Australia beat Wales 28-23 to claim fifth spot, Ireland claimed a second tournament victory over Scotland to finish seventh and Argentina beat a plucky Japanese side 38-21 to claim ninth spot.