New Zealand will take on defending champions England at the World Rugby U20 Championship final in Tbilisi, Georgia on Sunday.
In two sensational semis, the Kiwis threw down the gauntlet with a solid five-try performance against France while the English beat South Africa, 24-22.
England claimed their narrow victory at Mikheil Meskhi Stadium against a relentless Junior Springboks side, who looked to have victory within their grasp as Curwin Bosch kicked a penalty to put them 17-22 up with just eight minutes to go. But England’s talismanic captain Zach Mercer barreled over the line for a solo try and Max Malins converted to put England once again in front. 2012 winners South Africa were left devastated as a Bosch drop goal attempt went wide, while England clung onto their narrow lead to book their place in the final.
New Zealand got the upper hand with four unanswered tries in the first half of their semi-final, and although France went down fighting with four tries of their own to New Zealand’s one in the second half, the damage had been done and the five-time champions were safely through to the final, sealing the win 39-26.
Earlier in the day, hosts Georgia thrilled an energetic home crowd with a well-deserved first victory in this competition, a narrow 25-26 win over Argentina to leave Las Pumitas facing a battle to avoid relegation. Meanwhile, just across Tbilisi at Avchala Stadium, Samoa and Ireland were in a similar contest to avoid the relegation match with Ireland racing out of the blocks to take the momentum early on, which they maintained to win 52-26 and assure their continued spot in the competition.
Australia and Italy finished 52-26 while Scotland finished 29-25 against Six Nations rivals Wales to book their spot in the fifth place play-off against Australia next Sunday.