Sensational rugby was the order of the day as the future stars of world rugby lit up stadiums in Georgia on Sunday.
Under blue skies and blazing sunshine at the Avchala Stadium in Tbilisi, Argentina and France played out a close contest, however missed chances proved costly to Los Pumitas and a 79th minute yellow card against Agustin Medrano gifted the win to France, whose pack powered over for a final try, to win 26-25.
Meanwhile, at the AIA Arena in Kutaisi, both Ireland and Scotland were looking for their first wins and two Scotland tries in the first half proved decisive, as they edged their Six Nations rivals, 32-28. It was a devastating second loss in a row for a depleted Ireland team, who – having reached the final in 2016 – will not now be able to progress to the last four in this year’s championship.
A 13-try contest was on the cards for crowds enjoying a day of world-class rugby as Italy took on New Zealand. While Italy were the first to score – Simone Cornelli intercepting a pass and racing over the line to put Italy ahead. – New Zealand proceeded to pile on nine tries, including a brace for Caleb Clarke, to seal a comfortable 68-26 win over the Azzurini.
Thrilling rugby continued in Tbilisi with a hard-hitting contest between Oceania rivals Australia and Samoa, and while it was tight in the first period, Australia stepped up a gear in the second half resulting in a 33-26 win; the Australians continuing their 100% record in the competition.
Australia coach Simon Cron was full of praise for their opponents: “Samoa are amazing nation, a brilliant rugby playing nation. I knew it was going to be tough. We made it clear during the week that this was going to be one of the toughest games that we’ve ever played. The Samoans were outstanding, absolutely brilliant.”
The Georgian fans were once again out in force to support the Junior Lelos as they took on South Africa. In a physical encounter, the sides traded scores with Juarno Augustus and then Georgian Lasha Abidze going over, but by half-time South Africa had settled into their game, two more tries putting them comfortably ahead at the break. A yellow card for Guram Gogichashvili added to the Junior Lelos’ woes as South Africa used the numbers advantage to go over twice and, despite Giorgi Gogoladze getting the home team’s second try, they struggled to curb the ‘Boks, who emerged victorious, 38-14.
England continued their title defence with a win over Wales in an entertaining encounter that rounded off a superb day of rugby. Three England tries went unanswered in the first half until a Kieron Assiratti touchdown just before the break, which saw Wales return to the pitch with more vim than their English counterparts. However, with Josh Bayliss instrumental in protecting England’s try-line, captain Max Malins on target with the boot and Gabriel Ibitoye dangerous in attack, the defending champions withstood waves of Welsh pressure to take the match, 34-22, and keep their title dreams intact.
The third day of action – and final day of the pool stages – kicks off on Thursday, 8 June.