Sydney University Football Club members Angus Bell, Darcy Breen and Henry Robertson returned home from 2019 World Rugby Under 20 Championship with silver medals after Australia was edged out 24-23 in a tantalising final against France.

The Junior Wallabies, coached by Jason Gilmore, contested the 16-team tournament held in Argentina from 4-22 June, taking on Italy, Ireland and England in Pool B.

Loosehead prop Bell was selected in the run-on team in each of Australia’s five matches. Halfback Robertson was in the starting line-up against England and came off the bench in the other four matches, while tighthead prop Breen came off the bench in the five games.

Australia opened the tournament with a 36-12 win over Italy at Club de Rugby Ateneo Inmaculada, Santa Fe on 4 June.

They backed that up with a 45-17 result over Ireland at the same stadium on 8 June before going down 56-33 against England on 12 June.

They then defeated the host nation Argentina 34-13 in a semi-final at Racecourse Stadium, Rosario on 17 June to make it through to the final against France at the same stadium on 22 June.

France defended the title they claimed in 2018 when they hosted the Championships, but it was a tight affair, with the Junior Wallabies pushing for a first title.

The lead changed hands seven times before France fly-half Louis Carbonel kicked what proved to be the winning penalty with 15 minutes to go. Carbonel had been the star of France’s first title success on home soil in 2018, kicking 23 points in their defeat of England in the final.

By contrast, Australia left 10 points on the park in the final by failing to convert both of their first-half tries and two second-half penalties.

Australia captain Fraser McReight said the scoreboard shows how close the match was. “It was back-and-forth and just point after point from each team,” he said. “Credit to France, they played really well but I am super gutted for my team. We really lifted the tempo in the second half but unfortunately that wasn’t enough to get the job done.”

The 28-man Australian squad was selected after the 2019 Oceania Cup, which was contested in May between Australia, Japan, Fiji and New Zealand at Bond University on the Gold Coast.

Bell, Breen and Robertson were in the Australian squad that won the Oceania Cup, with a 64-14 win over Japan, a hard-fought 16-nil win over Fiji, and a 24-nil win of the Junior All Blacks. It was just the second time the Junior Wallabies have beaten the New Zealand Under 20s.