We're set for a thrilling final round of pool play on Wednesday at the World Rugby U20 Trophy with as many as five of the eight teams in a position to qualify for the final.
Namibia continued their perfect start to the competition with a second bonus-point win, 33-19 against Chile, to top Pool A by one point from Japan who brushed Canada aside 50-12.
Portugal lead the way in Pool B after they beat Hong Kong 31-24, but 2008 champions Uruguay are only two points in arrears after they bounced back from their opening round loss to the Junior Os Lobos with a tremendous 34-3 win over Fiji in the final match of the day at the Charrúa Stadium in Montevideo.
Fiji 3-34 Uruguay
Uruguay were unrecognisable from the side that toiled for long periods in an opening day defeat to Portugal, scoring five tries in a performance that delighted the large home crowd at the Charrúa Stadium in Montevideo.
Alejo Piazza’s score not long after the kick-off set the tone for a match in which Los Teritos demonstrated an abundance of skill in the backs as well as their traditional strength upfront.
Fiji pulled three points back in the sixth minute through the boot of Filimoni Botitu but, incredibly for a side with so much flair, that was the last time they troubled the scoreboard.
Front row pair Guillermo Pujadas and Yamandú Arburúas scored tries from rolling mauls and Piazza contributed five more points from the tee as Uruguay took a 20-3 lead into half-time.
Manuel Leindekar dotted down in the 51st minute to claim the bonus-point try before a rampaging run from Pujadas set up a fifth and final try. With Fiji shorn of numbers in defence following Lekima Nasamila’s yellow card, quickly recycled ball gave Martín Cattivelli the time and space he needed to put a pinpoint kick towards Juan Garese and the replacement flanker was left with the simplest of finishes.
Japan 50-12 Canada
Japan showed they have all the credentials to be worthy promotion contenders with a thrilling nine-try, 50-12 defeat of Canada.
Japan, who are intent on bouncing straight back into the World Rugby U20 Championship after being relegated last year, registered their first try in only the second minute through Chang-Ho Ahn.
They wasted no time in adding to their lead once Cole Keith had been sent to the sin-bin after the under-pressure Canadian scrum went to ground. From the next scrum, Japan were awarded their second penalty try of the tournament.
Canada shipped another 14 points before they were restored to their full complement of players, Ahn crossing for his second before Takeshi Sasaki added another. With Tomoki Kishioka kicking his third conversion Japan led 28-0 at the break.
The one-way traffic continued after the restart, Faulua Makisi scoring Japan’s fifth try with the half only two minutes old.
The remainder of the game was more evenly contested, Jake Thiel stemming the flow of points against his team with a 46th minute try. The respite was only temporary, however, as Makisi crossed for his second and then Yoshiyuki Koga and Shimpei Kamata followed him over the line before Anton Ngongo grabbed a late consolation for Canada.
Namibia 33-19 Chile
Namibia produced a powerful second-half performance to put themselves in pole position to top Pool A and qualify for next Sunday's final.
The lead changed hands three times in a topsy-turvy first half that saw Chile take the initiative with a second minute try for Thomas Orchard. The South Americans maintained their five-point advantage until Namibia capitalised on Rodrigo Manzano’s yellow card by scoring a few minutes after the Chilean winger was forced to take a leave of absence.
One man to the good, Namibia piled forward and eventually scrum-half Wihan von Wielligh darted over from close range. Cliven Loubser added the extras to put Namibia 7-5 up although it did not take long for Chile to respond once Manzano re-joined the fray, prop Piero Zunino crashing over for a try which Tomas Salas improved.
Namibia had the final say of the first half, though, thanks to a superb individual score from Brandon Groenewald. Loubser’s conversion brought the half to an end with the Namibians holding a slender 14-12 advantage.
PW Steenkamp was the next to cross for Namibia but his score was cancelled out by a fine effort from Tomás Salas. At 21-19, the game was firmly in the balance, but Namibia were given some breathing space approaching the hour-mark when front-rower Patrick Schickerling came off the bench and made an immediate impact by scoring his side’s bonus-point try.
Marco Beukes’ 63rd-minute try ensured Namibia were able to close out of the game with a degree of comfort.
Portugal 31-24 Hong Kong
Portugal withstood a fierce fightback from Hong Kong to stay in command of Pool B.
The Junior Os Lobos held a 15-3 lead at the break after tries from Rodrigo Freudenthal and Duarte Costa Campos and a penalty and conversion from Jorge Abecasis who missed with two other attempts at goal.
Abercasis widened the gap to 15 points with his second penalty but tries to Jack Scanlon, Oliver Duffy and Matt Worley, with only a penalty try in reply, saw Hong Kong close to within a point with 14 minutes remaining.
Portugal fell short of getting the bonus point score, which could prove crucial in the final shake-up, but two more penalties from Abercasis, in the 71st and 80th minute, earned them the win.
Estadio Domingo Burgueño Miguel, Punta Del Este is the venue for the third round of the U20 Trophy on Wednesday where the final rankings for finals day will be determined.
As pool leaders, Namibia and Portugal's destiny is in their own hands. Namibia face Japan in a straight shootout for Pool A, while Pool B pacesetters Portugal know that a win over Fiji will see them qualify for their first-ever final. Uruguay need to beat bottom-of-the-table Hong Kong and hope that Portugal slip up to stand any chance of making next Sunday's showpiece occasion.
Photos: Frankie Deges.
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