- Tries from Conlon and Earle seal trophy
- South Africa come back strong but England defence holds firm
England Under 20 21 South Africa Under 20 20
Photo: Getty Images
Captain Maro Itoje said his dreams had been realised after England Under 20 successfully defended their IRB Junior World Championship, beating South Africa 21-20 at Eden Park, Auckland.
The Saracens lock, who put in a tireless performance to cap a fantastic tournament, said: "It doesn’t feel real at the moment. It feels pretty special.
"It’s something I dreamt of when I heard about the Under 20 Championship and I am so happy to be able to lift the trophy."
Tries from Nathan Earle and Joel Conlon looked to have put England on the way, but the Baby Boks rallied from 21-13 down to set up a thrilling finale.
In the end, a pair of penalties and a conversion from Billy Burns – plus Aaron Morris' superbly-struck penalty from inside his own half – proved just enough.
After a cagey opening, Pollard and Burns exchanged penalties to make it three-apiece with 18 minutes on the clock.
South Africa had the opening score with half an hour played after a tap-and-go from England’s Henry Taylor was knocked-on by Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi. The ball fell to Pollard, who chipped through for Jessie Kriel to score.
Photo: Getty Images
England never really got going in the first 35 minutes but had some joy at the end of the half. First Morris sent a 55-metre penalty flying between the sticks before a smart break from Nick Tompkins freed up space for Earle to dive over. It was the Saracens winger's sixth try of the tournament.
Another Burns penalty just after half-time extended their narrow lead to 14-10 before Pollard hit back to make it 14-13. With the game on a knife-edge, England got the ultimately decisive second try – executing a rolling maul from a lineout to perfection, with replacement Conlon eventually touching down.
At 21-13 up, Burns saw a penalty sail to the left of the posts, and England were made to pay when Kriel went over for his second try after a scything South African attack.
The impressive Pollard sent a drop-goal attempt just wide with five minutes to play, but England's staunch defence held firm for their second consecutive JWC title.
Overcome with joy at the final whistle, Itoje added: "This shows the club Academies are doing their work, that the RFU Academy and their personal development is working. Long may it continue."
Points: Earle 1T, Conlon 1T; Burns 2P, 1C, Morris 1P
England U20 team
15 Aaron Morris (Bedford Blues)
14 Howard Packman (Northampton Saints)
13 Nick Tompkins (Saracens)
12 Harry Sloan (Harlequins)
11 Nathan Earle (Saracens)
10 Billy Burns (Gloucester Rugby)
9 Henry Taylor (Loughborough University)
1 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Northampton Saints)
2 Tom Woolstencroft (Bath Rugby)
3 Paul Hill (Leeds Carnegie)
4 Maro Itoje (Saracens, captain)
5 Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby)
6 Ross Moriarty (Gloucester Rugby)
7 Gus Jones (London Wasps)
8 James Chisholm (Harlequins)
16 Jack Walker (Leeds Carnegie) on for Tom Woolstencroft 62 mins
17 Alex Lundberg (London Wasps) on for Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi 70 mins
18 Biyi Alo (Saracens)
19 Hayden Thompson-Stringer (Saracens)
20 Joel Conlon (Exeter Chiefs) on for Gus Jones 40 mins
21 Callum Braley (Bristol Rugby)
22 Sam Olver (Northampton Saints)
23 Henry Purdy (Leicester Rugby)