IRB U21s World Champs glory for France
June 25, 2006

Hosts France beat defending champions South Africa 24-13 at a packed Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin in Clermont Ferrand to take the 2006 IRB Under 21 World Championship title.

The dramatic win gives France their first winners' medals in the tournament's history in front of 13,000 ecstatic supporters and follows the senior side's fine victory over the Springboks in Cape Town yesterday.

While the side has undoubtedly benefitted from the coaching of former French star Emile N'tamack, France largely owe their victory on the day to the unflappable presence at fly half of Lionel Beauxis, a star in the making who scored all of his side's points with six unerring penalties and two fine drop goals.

Up front, as in the semi final against Australia, the French matched their opponents blow for blow even if not pound for pound for the vast majority of the match and the loose trio of Damien Chouly, Fabien Alexandre and Fulgence Ouedraogo were again outstanding.

The early adrenaline-fuelled action was dominated by strong pack play and crashing defence but South African errors offered Beauxis two penalty chances, both of which he kicked with the minimum of fuss to give France a 6-0 lead after seven minutes.

South Africa fly half Isma-eel Dollie pulled one back in the 13th minute, but the home side were dominating proceedings as they sought to banish all memories of the loss to the Boks in the pool stages and a sweetly-struck Beauxis drop goal restored the six point cushion.

While Dollie missed his second penalty effort, Beauxis slotted his third (12-3) and then allied a strong tactical acumen with some sweet striking of the ball from hand to ensure that his side benefitted from the pack's hard work with territorial advantage for much of the rest of the half.

The first scoring opportunity after the break fell to the Boks, Dollie calmly slotting a penalty after two massive South African scrums had earned a penalty and as the famous South African pack kicked into overdrive in both the tight and the loose it looked as if the game's balance might shift.

Full back Marius Delport powered 60 metres upfield and Dollie looked to grow in confidence but France's defence held firm and it was the French who scored next through another opportunist drop goal from Beauxis. A minute later the same man made no mistake with another penalty chance and with 10 minutes remaining the French fans felt confident enough in their team to start celebrating victory.

Flanker Pierre Spies scored the only try of the match from an interception in the 75th minute but it brought nothing more than consolation for the South Africans who relinquish their title only after a typically forthright and passionate defence.

Glory for France though who, in the likes of Beauxis, Médard and a host of forward powerhouses, look to have plenty of cause for cheer not just today but in the years to come.

Loïc Jacquet, France captain: It's huge, it's like a dream. The atmosphere was electric. We were able to control possession. This victory is the work of a family. It's one of the biggest matches of my career. We knew we could beat South Africa after our first match against them. And we made fewer errors this time.

Lionel Beauxis, France fly half: We made South Africa play in their own half. Even if we scored through penalties, the principal was still to win the match. We controlled the ball really well and a lot of the credit for that goes to the forwards. It's very satisfying to beat South Africa. It's been a long road of hard work which has paid off. Of course I would like to play in the full French international team.

Emile Ntamack , France coach: We were carried by the crowd, who willed us to become world champions. I hope it's a good sign for the senior side next year. I hope these young guys will get game time at their clubs because they have enough potential.

Chiliboy Ralepelle , South Africa captain: I think France studied out game very well. They made fewer errors than us and that's why we lost the match, against a great kicker. We'll try again to win the next world cup.

Peter de Villiers, coach South Africa: They were better than is on the pitch today. We lost against a very good team. They were quicker than us. I think we've learnt a lot during this tournament, But the Springboks played against 13,000 people here and the French team were in top form. I think they have a good chance in 2007.

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