Rugby: Under 20s score nine tries in opening win

By Campbell Burnes

Job done. New Zealand have opened their World Rugby Under 20 Championship with a solid 55-0 win over Georgia in Salford.

Despite the inclement weather and a powerful Georgian scrum, New Zealand ran in nine tries and looked far too good for their opponents when they spread the ball.

No 8 Mikaele-Tu'u was sat on his backside at the first Georgian charge, but that was the last time he took a backwards step, carrying with power and staying on his feet to set up halfback Sam Nock for a try.

Waikato openside flanker Mitch Jacobson was outstanding, looking for all the world like a young Marty Holah with a sound technique over the ball and in the mauls. He was adjudged man of the match and scored a try while carrying three Georgians over the line before giving the last pass for the final try of the night to replacement Hapakuki Moala-Liava'a.

The backline was slick, putting together some clinical strike moves, two involving a double miss.

Fullback Shaun Stevenson benefited, as did two-try wings Caleb Makene and Jonah Lowe, while Malo Tuitama offered full impact off the bench. They will, however, be looking to eradicate the odd pass to the inside shoulder of the outside man.

New Zealand employed the grubber kick to good effect, with second five Jordie Barrett showing he can use his left foot with an adept kick for Lowe to score his first.

Georgia's cause was not helped by two yellow cards, but New Zealand kept the pressure on, and the likes of replacement hooker Asafo Aumua gave them regular go-forward in the second stanza.

The Georgians were physical and, predictably, scarcely made more than one pass in any movement if they did not drive or kick. But New Zealand will be satisfied as much with the zero against them as the 55.

Mitch Jacobson was more than happy with what his side showed: "We prepared for these kind of conditions, but I was really happy with how the boys kept their skill level real high in that second half. The scrum was a bit testing at times, but take nothing away from the Georgians. They are big, strong boys and we had to work really hard."

In the other Pool A result, Ireland tipped over Six Nations champions Wales 26-25. But the big upset of the day was in Pool B, where Scotland defeated Australia, who beat New Zealand just a month ago, 15-10. England hammered Italy 48-10, while in Pool C, Argentina toppled France 24-15 and South Africa beat Japan 59-19.

New Zealand's next pool match is in the early hours of Sunday morning, when they face Ireland.

New Zealand 55 (Caleb Makene 2, Jonah Lowe 2, Shaun Stevenson, Sam Nock, Mitch Jacobson, Malo Tuitama, Hapakuki Moala-Liava'a tries; Jordie Barrett 3 con, Stevenson con, Stephen Perofeta con) Georgia 0 HT: 31-0

- NZ Herald

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