Uruguay for the first time find themselves in pole position to win the World Rugby Nations Cup 2017 after battling back to beat Russia 32-29 in a thrilling game at the Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo on Wednesday.
Los Teros sit top of the overall table with nine points, two more than both the Argentina XV and Russia with Namibia a further point adrift. A victory, therefore, over Spain in the final round on Sunday will be enough for Uruguay to be crowned champions for the first time.
Namibia 38-22 Emerging Italy
Emerging Italy began the second round of Nations Cup matches with a tight and effective controlled display against Namibia, scoring three first-half tries.
Winger Giacomo de Santis and scrum-half Simone Marinaro scored the first two, in the ninth and 15th minutes, before Namibia hit back through their own winger Lesley Klim showed his speed to touchdown on the half-hour mark, converted by the efficient Theuns Kotze.
However, as half-time approached number eight Mirko Amenta stretched the Italians' lead to 22-7.
Phil Davies’ team talk cleared had the desired effect as Namibia emerged for the second half with a new attitude, attacking effectively and scoring five tries to secure a deserved bonus-point win.
Captain Renaldo Bothma began the revival before centre JC Greyling and fly-half Kotze crossed the try-line. Emerging Italy's hopes were hit with a second red card of the tournament, this time for Andrea Bettin for foul play.
Namibia made the most of their man advantage to score two further tries, through Klim and prop Gino Wilson for a well-deserved win.
Argentina XV 37-5 Spain
Felipe Contepomi’s team took about an hour to break a resilient Spanish side, scoring four of their five tries in the last 23 minutes.
Just as in their opening match, the Argentina XV scored within the opening two minutes, when Olympian Franco Sábato crossed for the first of his two tries. After that, the first half saw better rugby from Spain who failed to turn that territorial advantage into points on the scoreboard. In fact, the only other points in the half came from a penalty from Joaquín Díaz Bonilla to increase the lead to 10-0.
There was little change in the second half until Spain lost replacement Fred Quercy to the sin-bin and Martín Elías made then pay with a penalty before winger Franco Cuaranta scored a second try for Argentina XV.
The South Americans tried to attack from deep to break the Spanish resolve, but instead Argentina-born winger Ignacio Contardi intercepted a loose pass and raced away to scored Spain’s only points of the match.
Two tries in five minutes frorm Sábato and captain Juan Capiello stretched the lead before replacement Lautaro Bavaro had the final say to ensure Argentina XV bounced back from their last gasp 39-38 loss to Russia on day one.
Uruguay 32-29 Russia
The match of the day was undoubtedly the last one as Los Teros recovered from 24-8 down at half-time to beat a Russian side ranked two places above them at 19th in the World Rugby Rankings.
Full-back Rodrigo Silva spearheaded their recovery by scoring two tries, generating a third and being an efficient last line of defence.
Russia dominated the first half after Felipe Berchesi opend the scoring with an early penalty with their ball control and pure strength seeing them score three tries through centre Dimitry Gerasimov, flanker Dimitry Gritsenko and big winger Denis Simplikevich.
Uruguay could only manage a try against the run of play by Silva, who touched down in the left corner after leaving four defenders in his wake, to make it 24-8 at half-time.
The break was beneficial for Los Teros who scored within a minute of the restart through nippy scrum-half Santiago Arata and it was very much game on when, two minutes later, winger Gastón Gibernau took Silva’s flick pass to round off an 80-metre attack started by number eight Alejandro Nieto. Two Berchesi conversions left the home side two points only two points behind.
Los Teros would hit the front in the 55th minute with a second Berchesi penalty before a long run by Silva gave him his second try and his a 32-24 advantage. There would still be a nervous finish for Uruguay after Franco Lamanna was sin-binned and in his absence Russian number eight Anton Rudoi showed all of his strength to power over for a try seven minutes from time.
Uruguay managed to hold on for a win that puts their title hopes in their own hands.
RWC 2019 Tickets
RWC 2019 Official Ticketing site NOW LIVE
Fans can now register interest to apply for Rugby World Cup 2019 tickets