England into semi-final after battling victory over Australia
- Credit: Archant
England clinched a place in the semi-finals of the U20 Rugby World Championship with a 17-13 victory over Australia – but they were made to work extremely hard for it.
The young English side went into the game at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford knowing victory would send them to the last four as top seeds.
But qualification was in doubt for the majority of the game and wasn’t secured until the final whistle.
They had taken the lead for the first time on 63 minutes and it wasn’t until the last six minutes when Harry Mallinder landed a penalty that England gained enough of an advantage to quell some of the nerves.
They will now face South Africa, whose qualification came at the expense of New Zealand, in Monday’s semi.
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Argentina will face Ireland in the other.
England named Harpenden’s Jack Singleton and Old Albanian’s Max Malins on the bench again, as they had in the previous game against Scotland.
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There was a first appearance though for former Oaklands College student George Perkins on the wing.
And he was soon behind his own posts as Australia crossed the line in just 27 seconds through Jack Maddocks.
They held that seven point advantage to half-time, Mallinder and Mack Mason trading two penalties each.
The game turned in the second period when Mallinder’s chip was gleefully gathered by Harlequins centre Joe Marchant for his second try of the tournament.
Mallinder missed with the conversion but two penalties late on gave England the win.
Speaking on englandrugby.com, star of the show Mallinder said: “Australia battled right to the end. It was a tough challenge and credit to them.
“We are delighted to get the win, it wasn’t pretty at times, but we stuck at it and got the win.
“We will enjoy tonight because we are through to the semi-finals and that is an achievement in itself.
“There is enormous belief in the group, we didn’t have the first half we wanted and I’m just chuffed to bits with how all 23 men contributed to help us get the victory.
“At the break we talked about keeping the focus on ourselves and putting Australia under pressure and we did that.”