England may have agonisingly missed out on a third straight World Rugby U20 Championship title but head coach Jon Callard is adamant his young troops will go on to great things in their careers.
Replacement winger Vince Aso and highly-rated No.8 Akira Ioane went over for the Baby Blacks and, despite consistent late pressure, England failed to cross for the equalising try.
Having lifted the trophy in both 2013 and 2014, the defeat ended the Red Rose’s dreams of a third consecutive triumph but Callard claims the quality of rugby on display meant he had trouble distinguishing the final from a full international.
“It was a Test level match, both sides were great with the passion and emotion they put on the field,” said Callard.
“It could have gone either way, the first 20 minutes by us were sensational, but we struggled in keeping the possession in the second half.
“I can’t ask more to my side, I’m sure that we will see many of them playing at World Cup in 2019 and 2023.
“We were the smallest of margins away from finding the solution there, if it had gone on for another ten minutes we may have snuck it.
“But we couldn’t quite adapt and deliver that one play in the crucial moment that would have made the difference and we will learn from that moving forward.”
Clark cut the perfect line to scythe through and dot down after three minutes, giving England the perfect start but Aso crashed over in the corner as New Zealand built a one-point advantage at the break.
Ioane then finished off some patient build-up play shortly after the interval and although Bath’s Rory Jennings kept the reigning champions in touch with his boot – they couldn’t notch the pivotal score.
And after bouncing back from a group stage defeat to France to reach the final, England’s try scorer Clark insists there are plenty of positives to take from the tournament despite the heartache.
“In the team huddle at the end we acknowledged that although we are hurting now, we have to remember how far we have come as a squad,” explained the centre.
“Our journey started in the Six Nations, we showed resilience to bounce back from that result against France last week, we fronted up this evening and now we will push on as individuals and as a strong group of friends.”