Mexico’s dream of making it through to Rugby World Cup 2019 remains alive after they beat the Cayman Islands 34-24 in Mexico City on Saturday to complete a clean sweep of victories in the north zone of the Rugby Americas North (RAN) Championship.
Los Serpientes will now go through to face Guyana in the final on 23 July, with the winner of that match taking another step forward in the Americas regional qualification process for Japan 2019.
The Cayman Islands had enjoyed the briefest of leads when they responded to Agustin Sanchez’s early penalty for Mexico with a converted try from outside-centre Michael Wilson.
But a four-try blitz in the space of 18 first-half minutes meant Los Serpientes had the game effectively won at half-time. Openside Gonzalo Pons touched down twice either side of efforts from winger Fharid Samaro and outside-centre Christian Henning as Mexico took a 27-7 advantage into the break.
Shaun McDermott cut the deficit by three with his first penalty kick of the afternoon seven minutes into the second half but when centre Luis Arredondo crossed for Los Serpientes’ fifth try after 53 minutes and Sanchez converted, there was no way back for the Caymans.
Credit to the visitors though as they continued to battle hard and Wilson grabbed his second try of the game just past the hour mark.
With Mexico down to 14 men following Jose Reyes’ yellow card, the visitors continued to press for a third try. However, they were unable to convert their numerical advantage into points and did not score again until it was too late, flanker Harold Westin dotting down for a consolation score four minutes from time.
Mexico’s win was their third of the competition, having earlier beaten the Bahamas and Bermuda, and saw them gain 0.59 of a rating point, which was enough to lift them above Morocco and into a new high of 55th in the World Rugby Rankings. The Cayman Islands fell three places to 61st with Sweden, Luxembourg and Singapore the beneficiaries.
CRANES MAKE IT TOUGH FOR NAMIBIA
In the Africa Cup, Namibia kicked off their Division 1A campaign with a 40-31 win against newly-promoted Uganda at the Kyadondo Rugby Ground in Kampala on Saturday.
Having trailed to Pius Ogena’s interception try for the entirety of the first quarter, Namibia finally found another gear to post three tries of their own in the space of seven minutes, all of them converted by RWC 2015 hero Theuns Kotze. Chrysander Botha levelled the scores on 23 minutes before fellow winger Gino Wilson crossed twice as Phil Davies’ men stormed into a 21-5 lead.
However, Uganda had the final word of the half when full-back Philip Wokorach brilliantly collected his own up-and-under to score the first of his two tries.
When Botha dotted down for his second four minutes after the restart an emphatic victory appeared to be on the cards for the Welwitschias, however the Rugby Cranes refused to go down without a fight and matched Namibia score for score thereafter, Wokorach capping an impressive display with his second, and Uganda’s fifth, right at the death.
With Namibia, ranked some 30 places higher than Uganda in 20th, the match did not have any impact on the rankings.
TUNISIA HIT HALF CENTURY AGAINST IVORY COAST
Meanwhile in Pool B of Division 1B, Tunisia had things a lot easier against the lower-ranked Ivory Coast, who were playing their second game in four days following Wednesday’s 20-13 win against Botswana.
Full-back Khalifa Chems Eddine scored one of Tunisia’s seven tries and kicked five conversions and a penalty for an 18-point personal haul in a 50-5 win for the host nation which earned them a title decider with Pool A winner Senegal in November.
While Eddine only missed one of his seven attempts at goal, the Ivory Coast consistently failed to capitalise on Tunisian ill-discipline. Nine points went begging from the kicking tee in the first 25 minutes and they were also unable to force the issue when Tunisian number eight Zemzem Abdeljamid was sent to the sin-bin.
Tunisia then scored three quickfire tries after the break while they were short-handed for the second time in the match following the loss of another forward to the sin-bin, scrum-half Achref Dhif, winger Jabri Chedy and Eddine crossing to take the score out to 36-0.
Replacement front-row Mlis Mohamed added another five-pointer before the Ivory Coast finally got on the scoreboard thanks to Anzia Kassi’s 69th-minute try. However, Tunisia brought up the half-century when winger Chelly Heithem crossed the line in the 78th minute and replacement kicker Kherfani Abbes tagged on the extras.
Tunisia pick up 0.63 of a rating point but remain 38th in the rankings. Ivory Coast are still 50th but are one-tenth of a point worse off than at the start of the week. Botswana, ranked 64th, lost just over half a rating point over the course of the week following their midweek defeat to Ivory Coast.
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