New Zealand have surrendered their world under-20 rugby title after being comprehensively outplayed by France in an absorbing semifinal.

The French, backed by a passionate capacity crowd of 15,000 at the Aime-Giral Stadium in Perpignan, won 16-7 on Wednesday (NZT) to qualify for their first final at this level.

They will meet England in the title match after the English held off a spirited South African comeback to win their semifinal 32-31.

New Zealand, the defending champions who have won the title six times, are left to battle for the bronze medal against the baby Boks in Beziers (2.30am Monday NZT)

New Zealand and France entered the semifinals as the best attacking teams and boasting the most offloads between them. But it was defence that dominated this match.

Missed tackles counted against the Kiwis as they frequently found themselves in desprate situations, battling French dominance in territory and possession.

The big French pack was at the heart of this win as tight and loose forwards combined to rampage up the middle and they also enjoyed a dominance at scrum time.

Incredibly New Zealand, with all their dangers out wide, never got into the French 22 in a serious attacking situation until the 70th minute. By then it was too late.

The only score of the first half was a 30th minute penalty to Louis Carbonel, after France had turned down repeated opportunities to go for goal but been frustrated with their lineout drives in the New Zealand 22.

The French blew a golden opportunity to increase their lead on the stroke of halftime when left wing Matthis Lebel dropped the ball from a clever cross kick with the line open.

Lebel made amends three minutes into the second half when he made a good break into the New Zealand 22 and second-five Romain Ntamack came in on the angle to finally cross the try line. With the conversion New Zealand suddenly found themselves 10 points down which seemed like a mountain in front of them considering how tight the game had been.

Things quickly got worse when France monstered New Zealand in a scrum and Carbonel landed his second penalty.

France missed two long-range penalty attempts as they looked to put themselves well clear of New Zealand. Carbonel eventually slotted a handy goal in the 63rd minute to extend the lead to 16-0.

New Zealand finally struck in the 70th minute, making the most of their best attacking foray to squeeze first-five Harry Plummer over in the corner.

New Zealand counter-attacked off the kick-off, sweeping all the wya to the other end only for replacement hooker Ricky Jackson to drop the ball with the line begging.

France 16: Romain Ntamack try; Louis Carbonel con, 3 pen.

New Zealand 7: Harry Plummer try; Plummer con. HT: 3-0

 – Stuff

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