England Under-20s successfully defended their IRB Junior World Championship title with a 21-20 win over South Africa in Auckland.
England won the crown for the first time when they beat Wales in last year’s final – and they produced another spirited display at Eden Park to overcome a South Africa side that had twice beaten hosts New Zealand en route to the final.
Handre Pollard and Billy Burns swapped penalties early on before the Baby Boks scored the opening try of the match.
Jesse Kriel won the race to the ball after a clever chip through from South Africa captain Pollard, a nominee for the IRB Junior Player of the Year award. Pollard converted.
England responded with a monster 55m kick from Aaron Morris before a moment of brilliance saw them go into the half-time break 11-10 in front.
Nick Tompkins showed incredible pace and strength to go close to the line before Nathan Earle finished the break off out wide.
Burns and Pollard swapped penalties at the start of the second half as both sides went toe-to-toe.
However England gave themselves breathing space when Joel Conlon got the ball down after a textbook catch-and-drive, with Burns slotted over the extras.
Burns, though, missed a penalty and South Africa made him pay. A superb counterattack down the left flank saw Kriel cross for his second try with Pollard’s conversion cutting the deficit to a point.
With renewed energy the Boks threw everything they had at the England defence only for the white wall to remain solid.