Li sets new U20 record

Li sets new U20 record

Tevita Li has once again established himself as a dynamic try-scorer. The young Blues winger scored a hat trick during Monday night’s victory over France in the World Rugby U20 Championship semifinal.

It was a scintillating four try first half set up the comprehensive victory as New Zealand put on a real show in easily their best performance of the tournament.

The reliable boot of first-five Otere Black opened the scoring inside five minutes as Les Bleus were penalised at ruck time.

The physical French forwards soon lived up to their reputation as they pressured New Zealand’s scrum to force a penalty, before driving over from the resulting line-out for the first try of the match.

Down 7-3, New Zealand struck straight back through a thrilling movement that started just outside their own twenty-two.

Quick hands helped Anton Lienert-Brown into space on the right and his resulting break saw the lethal Tevita Li link up on the inside and cut back across the field to score on the left of the uprights.

In easily one of the tries of the tournament, Li became New Zealand’s all time leading try scorer in Under 20s World Rugby with 13.

Black added the extras for a 10-7 lead.

After some defence in their own half New Zealand quickly went on the counter attack and thought they had scored when TJ Faiane went over from an expertly weighted kick.

However, intervention by the TMO saw the try overturned for a high tackle in the lead-up to the turnover.

The French sent yet another rumbling maul at the line, but this one was eventually halted.

Down the other end an inch perfect kick into the corner by Black and an aggressive chase by Li saw the French winger bundled into his own in goal for a five metre scrum.

A solid eight man shove set a great base for number eight Akira Ioane to go off the back and beat two defenders to crash over for New Zealand’s second try which was converted by Black for a 17-7 lead.

With their tails up New Zealand marched straight back down field and a lovely inside ball from Lienert-Brown found Li who was not going to be stopped as he went over for his second.

Ioane soon joined Li with a brace as his power and pace once again proved too much for the French defenders as he broke through to score under the posts.

Black made sure of the extras and New Zealand took a well deserved 31-7 lead into half time.

After a frenetic first half, the second spell was a war of attrition with players going down on both sides.

The points scoring stalemate was eventually broken in the 55th minute, unsurprisingly by the omnipresent Li who swooped on kick through – to bag his hat-trick.

Sensing the game was under control coach Scott Robertson pulled Li and captain Atu Moli from the field for an early rest before the hour mark.

The reinforcements kept on coming for New Zealand and so did the points as Jack Goodhue finished off another line-break by Lienert-Brown.

Black made no mistake from the kicking tee yet again to finish with a perfect seven from seven.

The side will now face England in Cremona in five days time to see if they can lift the trophy.