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Baby Blacks scramble into semis
New Zealand's Baby Blacks will get a chance to continue their defence of the Junior World Cup rugby crown, but not without some nervous moments in their final pool game against Fiji.
The young Kiwis eventually ran out 33-12 winners over their Pacific neighbours in Cape Town, enough for them to retain a crucial points-differential advantage over France in their quest for the fourth and final semifinal spot. But they trailed for most of the first half and only secured their passage to the knockout round when centre Jason Emery crossed for a bonus-point try 15 minutes from the end.
The result sets up a rematch with Wales, who inflcited the NZ side - four-time champions - with their first loss in the history of the event over the weekend and emerged as top qualifiers for the semis on Sunday.
Entering the final round of pool play, Wales, Argentina and England were in the box seats to win their pools for three of the semifinal spots. New Zealand were in a tussle with France and South Africa for the fourth as the best of the second-placed teams.
The Baby Blacks enjoyed a favourable points differential after beating Samoa 63-0 in their tournament opener and maintained that edge with their scoreline against Fiji. France managed a 31-7 win over Australia, not enough to help their cause, but hosts South Africa toppled England 28-15, enough to leapfrog to the top of their pool and eliminate their opponents altogether.
Despite their victory, New Zealand can't feel confident about their chances of retaining the under-20 trophy. They conceded the first try to Fiji in the second minute and couldn't respond until the final moments of the first half, when a penalty try gave them a 7-5 halftime lead.
Tries to flanker Glenn Preston and fullback Matt Proctor within 10 minutes of the restart finally got them rolling, and centre Jason Emery sealed the result with a brace of tries, the second as time expired.
The Baby Boks will face Argentina in the other semifinal.
New Zealand 33 (Jason Emery 2, Glenn Preston, Matt Proctor tries, penalty try; Ihaia West four conversions) Fiji 12 (Jale Sassen, Aca Simolo tries; Sakiuswa Gavidi conversion)