Scoring two tries to one, New Zealand were 10-11 down at half-time, but came out and in a powerful five minutes after the break they secured what proved the match-winning try through Blues No.8 Akira Ioane.
Coach Scott Robertson said the side’s scrum and lineout had been superb and the game had been tight, an arm wrestle, and his side had shown good character.
Robertson said the theme for the championship had been the Second World War campaign in Italy by the New Zealand Division, which included the Maori Battalion, and that had been an inspiration for the side.
Captain Atunaisa Moli said it had been a very physical contest but the team had executed their plans in all areas they intended and the period after half-time with Ioane’s try had been vital to the success.
Spirited New Zealand last quarter defence denied England any hope of a late comeback. Nothing personified that more than a flying mid-air dive by halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi to field an England lob kick two minutes from the end. But it wasn’t an isolated effort as all team members were put under the gun as they attempted to keep the lead they secured early in the second half.
Blues Loose forwards Blake Gibson and Akira Ioane had big games but they were complemented by a superb forward effort from a pack who provided good ball throughout, refusing to be daunted by the typically uncompromising effort of the England pack.
England opened the scoring when second five-eighths Max Clark ran back on an angle and into space 22m out from the New Zealand line after three minutes.
Otere Black, the New Zealand first five-eighths, responded with an eighth minute penalty goal, while four minutes later England’s first five-eighths Rory Jennings added to his earlier conversion with a penalty goal.
New Zealand lost starting centre Tinoai Faiane to a leg injury in the 24th minute. His replacement wing Vincent Tavae-Aso was no sooner on the field than he was on Jack Goodhue’s shoulder, after Goodhue moved from wing to centre, and fed the ball, Tavae-Aso made a stunning run around the England defence to score in the corner.
Dominating play after the half-time break, New Zealand mounted a powerful assault on the England line. When a penalty was awarded five metres out Tahuriorangi took the tap and the ball was worked to the line and No.8 Akira Ioane took the ball from the base of the ruck and drove through for the try.
However, soon after, Ioane spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin for a no-arms tackle and Jennings landed penalty goals in the 49th and 54th minutes.
But Black responded with a 58th minute penalty goal to ease New Zealand out to a 21-16 lead with 22 minutes remaining.
England’s decision-making in the final stages proved costly, with handling and kicking issues suggesting a fatigue factor was having an influence.
Black missed a possible penalty goal from 40m out with five minutes left but the defence held and the title was theirs again.
Scorers: England Under-20 16 (Max Clark try; Rory Jennings con, 3 pen) New Zealand Under-20 21 (Vincent Tavae-Aso, Akira Ioane tries; Otere Black con, 3 pen). HT: 10-11