An intercept try by Hawke's Bay loosie Devan Flanders was a highlight as New Zealand yesterday booked a semifinal berth at rugby's under-20 world championship in France.
Havelock North's Flanders, who started at No 8 and also had stints on both sides of the scrum, sprinted 60 minutes for his try in the 11th minute of the Baby Blacks 27-18 win against Australia. Flanders has been as big a contributor to the Baby Blacks unbeaten run as he was for the unbeaten New Zealand Secondary Schools and Hastings Boys High School teams last year.
The Baby Blacks, who are coached by former Hawke's Bay Magpies mentor Craig Philpott and also include another Bay loosie Will Tremain, will take on host nation France in Wednesday's semifinal. Waikato-based Hawke's Bay age group product Bailyn Sullivan, who was originally named on the right wing for yesterday's game, was a late withdrawal.
As the score suggests the Junior Wallabies more than tested the Baby Blacks and their scrum enjoyed numerous dominant patches.
At one scrum in the second quarter the Baby Blacks conceded a penalty try. Tighthead prop Tevita Mafileo was sin binned at the time and it was a credit to the Baby Blacks defensive efforts that no points were conceded while the defending champions were down to 14 men.
The New Zealanders accuracy with their clearances at the collision area was spot on. Their exit plays were also completed with aplomb.
New Zealand led 17-15 at halftime and 20-18 after 57 minutes. A quick lineout and individual magic from fullback and All Blacks Sevens rep Vilimoni Koroi led to a 62nd minute try from Sullivan's replacement on the right wing, Tasman's Jamie Spowart.
Auckland first five-eighth Harry Plummer, who landed all five of his attempts at goal in tricky slippery conditions, provided the extras and that buffer proved handy during the final minutes. Outstanding Canterbury openside flanker and Baby Blacks captain Tom Christie was sin binned during the 77th minute but as was the case earlier on the Aussies were unable to capitalise.
"That was a real test," Christie said afterwards.
"That's like playing against your big brother ... no-one wants to lose. Credit to the Aussies ... they put up a hell of a fight and applied really good territorial pressure."
England will take on South Africa in the other semifinal.
New Zealand 27 (Harry Plummer, Devan Flanders, Jamie Spowart tries; Plummer 3 cons, 2 pens), Australia 18 (Fraser McReight, penalty try tries; Isaac Lucas 2 pens). HT: 17-15.