- England through to World Rugby U20 Championship final
- Mercer scored late to beat South Africa in close semi-final
- Will play France or NZ on Sunday
Head coach Ian Vass says making a World Rugby U20 Championship final is a huge achievement but England still have another three days of hard work to prepare for it.
A late Zach Mercer try handed England U20 a 24-22 victory over South Africa, having trailed for a large part of the second-half, and Vass credits his team’s togetherness for the momentum shift.
“When it counts we have a little bit extra, and I think we’ve shown that in this last couple of weeks,” he said.
“Now we have another two or three days of hard work to get ourselves up for the final.”
Togetherness and spirit
England boasted a five-point lead heading into the break, thanks to tries from Mercer and Alex Mitchell, as well as seven points from the boot of Max Malins.
But South Africa gained encouragement in the second stanza, as number eight Juarno Augusto powered over the line, followed by a Ruben Van Heerden score shortly after.
A penalty from the boot of Bosch gave South Africa a five point lead with a few minutes left on the clock, but a moment of brilliance saw captain Mercer score under the posts with Malins' subsequent conversion sending England into the final.
“The togetherness in those final moments just shows that if we do certain things right, we’ll get an opportunity, and then it’s just about taking it,” Vass added.
“Reaching the final is a massive achievement bearing in mind the selection and injury issues we’ve had going into and during the tournament.
“Today, the bench brought us home. It was such a team effort throughout.”
The core of the team
Vass admits the South Africa win was captain Mercer’s best performance of the championship so far, and praises him, alongside a pair of half-backs for their influence on the match.
“Himself (Mercer), Max and Harry Randall were the core of our team today and really stepped up to the plate,” he added.
“Tactically, they were just better than South Africa, and by the end it showed.
“They (South Africa) ran out of energy around the field because of the way those three lads led the team.”