France down SA at under-19 championships

France, champions 18 times since 1969, look set for another crack at annexing the International Rugby Board World Under-19 Championship title after blocking the path of defending champions South Africa with an 18-12 victory in their crucial 2004 encounter at Woodburn on Sunday.

That, after the Baby Boks had come good with two late tries—too late though to make any difference to the end result.

France won by way of a goal, a try and two penalty goals to a goal and a try.

Fortunately for the South Africans and the Frenchmen a cooling breeze tempered the intense heat of earlier in the afternoon when the junior All Blacks and Wallabies were engaged in their epic battle, won 30-5 by the men from New Zealand.

Baby Bok scrumhalf Daniel van der Merwe and French centre Benjamin Dambielle both missed early penalty attempts and then flyhalf Florian Denos curled in a beauty of a third kick at goal for an early 3-0 lead to France.

This first quarter was somewhat scrappy as the two tournament favourites were hurried into error by each other when a little more thoughtful cohesion might have led to greater rewards for effort.

South Africa missed a great chance when fullback Marius Delport broke free in a glorious run but his overhead pass to the unmarked Pierre Spies on his right was wild and missed its intended target.

Delport was at it again moments later but this time leftwing Frank Wagenstroom spilled the final pass.

A third break by Delport had the same result as Spies could not hold on to the decisive pass.

South Africa lost another opportunity when Van der Merwe missed his second penalty shot at goal.

The Frenchmen looked the more composed as half-time approached but were cut down by some ferocious midfield tackles, notably by centre Noel de Villiers.
So 3-0 to France it was at half-time.

And they rubbed South Africa’s noses up the wrong way in the opening seconds of the second half when they out-thought the Boks defence with centre Thiibault Lacroix sliding through for the opening try converted by Robin Janisson (10-0).

And then it was all France as leftwing Nicolas Pardo rounded off another fine move with an unconverted try as the South Africans wilted both fore and aft in spite of some valiant efforts.

Julian Jeuvrey then kicked the long-range penalty that doomed South Africa to a semifinal against New Zealand at the Absa Stadium in Durban next Thursday.

South Africa eventually got a late try from Delport converted by flyhalf Ismaeel Dollie and another from Danie van der Merwe with Dollie’s second conversion attempt striking an upright.—Sapa

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