Guatemala has ended its first year as an associate member of World Rugby on a high after claiming both the men’s 15s Sudamerica C Championship and the women’s Sudamerica C Sevens Championship titles.
Following an earlier 53-0 win against El Salvador, Los Jaguares, the men’s 15s team, defeated Costa Rica 24-16 in the final of the four-team Central American competition.
Victory earns them a second shot at promotion to the Sudamerica B Championship, having lost by a single point to Ecuador in last June’s play-off. They will now play the same opposition again for the right to play in the second-tier competition, on a date to be decided, after Ecuador finished last of the four teams at this year’s B Championship in Lima, Peru in October.
Staged at Doroteo Gamuch Flores in Guatemala City, the Sudamerica C Championship involved four teams and was played on a round-robin basis, with Guatemala and Costa Rica progressing to the final after comfortable wins over El Salvador and Panama.
In the final, Los Jaguares started strongly with a try for winger Helmut Flores, scorer of 34 points against Panama, just five minutes into the game. Fellow winger Diego Orellana added the conversion and a penalty for a 10-0 lead.
Visiting scrum-half Tico Donovan Molina kicked two first-half penalties and added a third shortly after the restart to reduce the deficit to a single point. Soon, Guatemala were then in the unaccustomed position of being behind, after Costa Rican number eight Eugenio Masis scored a converted try to put Costa Rica 16-10 ahead.
Stung into action, Los Jaguares found an extra gear and scored two unanswered tries through Michael Vázquez and his namesake Pablo, which were both converted by Flores and Marcos de León respectively for a much celebrated 24-16 win.
PANAMA WIN FOR FIRST TIME
Panama also had cause for celebration after claiming their first-ever win at test level in the bronze final.
The Red Devils beat El Salvador 39-19, with tries from Miguel Monchez, Víctor Lorenzo, Ceial Bejar, Leonardo Castro and Pablo Gaitán helping them into a 29-19 half-time lead. Full-back Emanuel Ríos scored their sixth and final try while flanker Bosco Núñez kicked three conversions and a penalty.
Erick Salas, José Alejandro Calix and lock Nelson Bolaños touched down for El Salvador, with Calix adding two conversions.
In the rugby sevens competition, which formed part of an action-packed weekend of rugby, there was also home success for the Guatemalan women.
Having lost 29-0 to Costa Rica on Friday in the opening round-robin, they turned the tables on their opponents and beat the previous champions 14-10 in the final. Earlier in the day, El Salvador beat Panama 12-7 to finish third.
These on-field successes have been underpinned by a positive domestic scene, involving extensive training and education and growth participation programmes at all levels as Guatemala strive to become a full member of Sudamerica Rugby in 2017.
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