Playing in front of a 6,000-strong crowd on a cold afternoon at the Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo, Uruguay had to work hard to beat Chile 39-14 and secure their third South American A Championship title.
Resolute Chilean defence meant it was still anyone's game with less than a quarter to go but a brace of tries from 24-year-old centre Joaquin Prada ensured Los Teros came away with the trophy.
Flanker Gonzalo Campomar was again in sublime form for Uruguay and took his tally of tries for the tournament to six with the opening try of the match on five minutes. Fly-half Martín Secco added the extras.
Los Cóndores replied soon after when winger José Ignacio Larenas scored from a tapped penalty. Goal-kicking centre Matías Nordenflycht made it 7-7 with the successful conversion.
Then, in a move that embodied the attack-minded philosophy of Los Teros coach Esteban Meneses, Uruguayan captain Juan Manuel Gaminara crossed for the game’s third try. Secco’s conversion and subsequent penalty took the score to 17-7 at the break.
A vibrant Chilean side, nonetheless, refused to give in and Los Cóndores scored next through fly-half Felipe Brangier. The converted try brought it back to a three-point game early in the second half.
Uruguay made a raft of changes and the replacements had a noticeable effect on the outcome, as Los Teros scored three tries in the final 15 minutes.
Rugby World Cup 2015 ever-present Prada crossed the line twice, between the 64th and 70th minute, to settle Uruguayan nerves before full-back Rodrigo Silva added a final flourish.
This was Uruguay’s third South American A Championship title win after previous successes in 1981 and 2014, and it was Chile’s third runners-up finish in the last six years.
Uruguay remain unchanged in 20th place in the World Rugby Rankings while Chile slip one, to 29th, as a result of the Ukraine’s victory over the Netherlands in the European Nations Cup Division 1B.
The Netherlands’ defeat combined with Brazil’s 32-21 win over Paraguay has resulted in Os Tupis climbing one place in the rankings to 35th. They are now on 51.57 points – marginally below the Czech Republic –after a gain of nine-tenths of a ranking point.
Brazil’s margin of victory was not enough, however, for them to move above Chile and into second place in the final South American A Championship table.
Third place still qualifies them for next year’s Sudamérica Rugby Cup though. Wooden-spoonists Paraguay, meanwhile, will have to play a repechage game in November to confirm their place in the region’s elite tournament.
BRAZIL PUSHED HARD
In what was Paraguay’s best performance of the tournament, Brazil had to pull out all the stops to prevail at the Héroes de Curupaytí Stadium.
After Yakarés winger Sergio Alvarenga missed three penalties inside the first eight minutes, it was Os Tupís who took the lead through fly-half Moisés Duque’s neatly-struck drop-goal.
Soon after, Brazil full-back Daniel Sancery ran past several defenders down the left touchline to score his fifth try in seven tests.
The second came when Lucas Muller counter-attacked from his own half and dotted the ball down under the posts. With the simplest of conversions going over, the visitors found themselves 15-0 up inside the opening quarter.
However, it was Paraguay who ended the half in the ascendency and Alvarenga made amends for his earlier misses by booting three consecutive penalties to take the home side to within six points at the break.
Paraguay’s strong comeback continued with prop Álvaro Rojas crossing for a 44th minute try. The conversion took Los Yakarés into a 16-15 lead. Brazil then responded with a penalty from Duque before tries from Felipe Sancery and João Luiz da Ros confirmed the win for Os Tupis.
Paraguay blindside flanker Leonardo Glitz’s went over from a rolling maul seven minutes from time to give the final scoreline a closer look.
Mexico kicked off their Rugby World Cup 2019 qualification campaign with a comfortable 39-3 win against the Bahamas in the opening fixture of the Rugby Americas North north zone competition, a pool which also contains Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. The south zone is jointly led by Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
The winners of the respective pools will play-off against each other for the right to advance to the next stage of the RWC 2019 qualification process as Rugby Americas North champions
Mexico’s next match will be in two weeks’ time against Bermuda on 21 May in Mexico City, while, on the same day, Bahamas will travel to face the Cayman Islands.
As well as beginning their Rugby Americas North Championship campaign on a winning note, Las Serpientes’ victory in Nassau earned them 0.59 of a ranking point – enough to lift them above Sweden and into 56th place. Bahamas drop below Niue Island into 86th place.
Main photo credit: Carlos Pazos-El Observador
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