Argentina XV and Fiji Warriors kicked off their World Rugby Americas Pacific Challenge campaigns in impressive fashion with big wins over Rugby Americas North duo, Canada A and USA Selects, while Samoa A edged hosts Uruguay A as a hugely entertaining day in Montevideo came to a dramatic close.
Americas Rugby Championship 2016 winners Argentina XV ran in seven tries to overpower the slow-starting Canadians 56-29, while Fiji Warriors look in good shape to follow up their victory at the World Rugby Pacific Challenge back in April after brushing aside the USA Select XV, 62-12.
Not to be outdone, Samoa A and Uruguay then served up an 86-point classic in the final game of the day, with the Pacific Islanders only clinching victory in the second minute of added time.
ARGENTINA XV 56-29 CANADA A
Argentina XV eased to a 56-29 win against Canada A as the inaugural World Rugby Americas Pacific Challenge began with an entertaining clash at the Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Number eight Benjamin Macome scored a hat-trick of tries and was hugely influential throughout as the Argentina XV over-powered a Canadian side that battled gamely to the end.
Two tries from Macome and one apiece from Segundo Tuculet and Bautista Delguy, plus Juan Cruz Gonzalez’s four conversions, saw Argentina XV race into a 28-3 lead at the break, this despite playing nearly 10 minutes with 13 men following yellow cards to Cristian Bartoloni and Juan Cruz Guillemain.
The Argentinians extended that lead to 42-3 when Macome’s third try, after he broke away from the back of a powerful rolling maul, was followed by one from prop Facundo Gigena, Gonzalez converting both.
Canada’s cause was not helped when they lost front-row forwards Ray Barkwill and Rob Brouwer to the sin-bin in quick succession approaching the hour mark.
Mark Anscombe’s team rallied with four tries in the final quarter, the first a 55-metre intercept from Gordon McRorie, but Argentina XV flanker Rodrigo Baez also bagged a brace as the South Americans brought up the half-century.
Canada at least ended the game on a high when centre Ben Lesage sliced through the middle of the park for a solo score and then the ever-willing Barkwill finished off a wonderful team try having been involved earlier in the move.
FIJI WARRIORS 62-12 USA SELECT XV
Fiji unleashed their full array of skills on a USA Select XV that was still in the game at 24-12 down with just over half an hour to play. However, the Warriors found another gear as the USA team started to tire and scored six more tries - to add to the four they managed in the first half - to win with ease.
USA Select actually took the lead on seven minutes when Fijian raised, US-born winger Matai Leuta profited from indecision in defence to gather a neat grubber kick from full-back Michael Te’o and touch down for the game’s opening try.
The Warriors drew level shortly afterwards and then hit the front on 15 minutes after a demonstration of their basketball-style handling produced a try for Frederick Hickes.
Eremasi Radrodro got in on the act and then tight-head Mesake Doge bagged the bonus-point try shortly after USA centre Martin Iosefo had been sent to the sin bin.
USA found themselves down to 13 men for a short period after prop Demecus Beach was also shown yellow for taking the scrum down on 44 minutes.
Unperturbed, they scored next through scrum-half Stephen Tomasin, who spotted a gap at the base of a ruck and darted through. That was as good as it got for the North Americans though as the loss of a third man to the sin bin, replacement Alex Maughan, cost them dear.
Radrodro got his second and was joined on the scoresheet by fly-half Alivereti Veitokani, who was wide with his conversion attempt for the third time in the match.
Scrum pressure produced a penalty try for Fiji Warriors before flanker Vasikali Mudu, replacement Peni Naulago and winger Apete Daveta got their names on the scoresheet to give the scoreline a distinctly one-sided feel.
SAMOA A 44-42 URUGUAY A
Samoa A fly-half Patrick Faapale broke Uruguayan hearts when he slotted a last-gasp minute penalty to steal victory away from the hosts who had led 42-41 with only two minutes to go.
After a fairly low-key start to the game, which produced two penalties to Uruguay’s Jeronimo Etcheverry to one from Faapale, the game burst into life on 32 minutes when Samoa found their attacking rhythm to fashion a score for Oneone Faafou. Uruguay had managed to haul barn-storming centre Ope Peleseuma to ground just sort of the line but flanker Faafou was up in support to pick up the recycled ball and dot down.
Peleseuma’s midfield partner Meki Magele added a second on 35 minutes and with Faapale converting Samoa held a 15-6 lead. But Uruguay’s superiority at scrum time gained them a penalty try to make it a two-point game at the break.
Replacement Suamalie Tuiletufuga crashed through some suspect tacking at the start of the second half to increase Samoa’s lead before the home side’s powerful pack were awarded a second penalty try. Etcheverry slotted the conversion to tie the scores at 20-20.
Straight from the kick-off, Samoa reclaimed the lead when Peleseuma accepted a gift after Uruguay tried to pass their way out of their 22 only to find his midrift instead.
The see-saw nature of the match continued with Nicolas Freitas’ 53rd-minute try reducing the gap to two points. Samoa struck back again through winger Laaloi Leilua, who cut back in off his wing to take a pass from Meki Magele at pace.
When forwards Mateo Sanguinetti and Ignacio Secco were both sent to the sin-bin the game looked up for Uruguay, who by now were trailing 34-25 with just over a quarter of the match to go.
But they refused to lie down and when Etcheverry put in winger Santiago Arata for a try that he converted, they were back to within two points again.
Uruguay A were powerless to stop Peleseuma though after the Samoan pack managed to hold their own at scrum time and provide good ball for the backs to play with. Play was spread to Peleseuma, who picked up the ball on halfway and sped through a gaping hole in the Uruguayan defence for a 55-metre try that Faapale improved for a 41-32 lead.
Once again, Uruguay’s never-say-die spirit brought them back into the contest, a quick tap penalty from scrum-half Guillermo Lijtenstein resulting in Freitas’ second try which Etcheverry converted to make it 41-39 to Samoa A.
Etcheverry failed with a drop goal attempt in a frantic finale but was on target with a straightforward penalty attempt as Uruguay took the lead for the first time since the 30th minute.
It lasted for barely a minute though, as Samoa kept the ball to put Uruguay under pressure and force a penalty at the breakdown just inside the opposition 22. The experienced Faapale stepped up and cooly slotted the match-winning kick.
The Americas Pacific Challenge continues on Wednesday with three 'derbies', featuring Samoa A V Fiji Warriors, USA Select v Canada A and Argentina XV v Uruguay A.
Photos: courtesy of Uruguay RU