For the second year in a row, England U20s were able to defeat everyone but New Zealand in the IRB Toshiba Junior World Championship as they went down to a 28-44 defeat in Tokyo today.
England had cantered through the group stages and swept aside South Africa in the semi final but New Zeland were a completely different proposition.
Despite the wet conditions underfoot, New Zealand had enough class to keep a determined England side at bay. Territory and possession looked fairly even but New Zealand were clinical enough to take every chance that came their way.
There was no disgrace in defeat for Mark Mapletoft's side who would probably have beaten any other U20 side in the world on the day but New Zealand were simply too good.
Rory Clegg had to put in a try saving tackle on wing Nafi Tuitavake in the opening minutes and Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples made a similarly important tackle but England took the lead on 7 minutes through a Tom Homer penalty.
It was a good spell for England whose big pack competed well and Ben Youngs almost scampered over in the corner with a great sniping run but couldn't ground the ball and did have a foot in touch after a great cover tackle from full back Robinson.
But Homer extended the lead with a second penalty, this time from long range, to give England real hope on 14 minutes.
However, with the outstanding Aaron Cruden pulling the strings, New Zealand showed great hands in the backs to carve out a crucial opening. One half break and quick ball was enough for Robinson to cross out wide for the game's first try.
England came staight back and Gloucester's Henry Trinder powered into the 22. The ball came back left and Jamie George looked to have wasted the chance as he ignored the unmarked Charlie Sharples outside him.
However, James Gaskell was on hand to claim possession and was awarded a try despite clearly losing possession. England 11-5 up after 19 minutes.
New Zeland were promptly stung into action and a Winston Stanley chip bounced nicely for Zac Guildford who didn't have to break stride to score. Cruden added a penalty and New Zealand took the lead for the first time at 13-11.
Cruden then scored in the corner after a slightly fortuitous break from Shaun Treeby as the centre opened up the England midfield after taking a pass that wasn't intended for him.
Dave Lewis entered the fray for the injured Ben Youngs but was powerless to intervene as a now dominant New Zealand scored again. Robinson made the break, Berny Hall provided support and Cruden scored near the posts.
After a great first quarter, England had been swept aside by three tries in five minutes.
Homer narrowed the gap to 25-14 but was just short with another effort as time ticked away and England went into the break still in touch, just.
England started the second half brightly but paid the price for a loose Homer clearance which gave New Zealand a superb position. Cruden drew the defence and Treeby took a great angle to score untouched.
Shaun Knight came on to aid the muscular effort up front and number eight Carl Fearns powered over from a set scrum to give England hope at 21-32 after 51 minutes and Sharples so nearly won the race to touch down a kick ahead shortly afterwards but couldn't quite ground the ball.
As the game entered the final quarter, Cruden exploited forwards out wide in the defensive line to put Guildford in for his second try to effectively clinch the game.
England so nearly scored a pushover try after a great interception and chip and chase from Charlie Sharples forced a 5m scrum but New Zealand held out and ruthlessly exploited an England turnover for hooker Braydon Mitchell to go over in the corner.
England had the last work when Gloucester scrum half Dave Lewis went over with just a minute or so left to make the score 28-44 but it was too little, too late.
Speaking to GRTV after the game, Backs Coach Tim Taylor was happy with the squad as they cruised to victory over Treviso. The result wasn't in doubt, but the Cherry and Whites laboured to secure a crucial try bonus point.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester Rugby centre Matt Scott is excited to take the field again as the Cherry and Whites look to build on the win in Bayonne when Treviso come to Kingsholm this Saturday.
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
Motu Matu'u is looking to make up for lost time this week as the Cherry and Whites head to Basque Country to take on Bayonne in the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener. The Samoan hooker made his first appearance in the jersey last weekend, and is hoping to contribute to the team this weekend.
Gloucester's attentions turn to Europe this weekend as they travel to Bayonne for their opening fixture of this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup. Forwards Coach Trevor Woodman told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will be aiming to top their pool as they've done for the past two seasons, but is well aware of how tough it is to win in France.
Although understandably disappointed at seeing victory slip away at the last minute, Ben Morgan said after the game at Exeter that there were plenty of positives that Gloucester could take from the game.
Speaking after a last-gasp try from Exeter earned the Chiefs a 27-27 draw at Sandy Park on Saturday, Charlie Sharples admitted to mixed feelings. The game saw him score a try on his 200th competitive appearance for the club, but the frustration from not closing out the win was clear.
Gloucester made it two wins from two outings in this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup as they outplayed Benetton Treviso at Kingsholm to win by 37 points to 8, the bonus point try coming with the final play of the game.