We’re all set for ‘Super Saturday’ in the Americas Rugby Championship next weekend as three teams enter the final round still with hopes of lifting the trophy.
The USA remain favourites to retain the title they won last year after they beat Brazil 45-16 to stay three points clear of Argentina XV at the top of the standings. The Argentina XV saw off Canada 40-15, while a record 67-15 win over Chile means Uruguay are still a further two points off the pace.
Next Saturday’s triple bill kicks off with Chile against Canada before the USA take on Uruguay knowing that their destiny is in their own hands. A win for the Eagles would confirm them as champions while a defeat would open the door for Argentina XV, who travel to São Jose dos Campos to play Brazil in the final match of the tournament.
Uruguay need to beat the Eagles with a bonus-point – and deny the defending champions anything from the game while also hoping that Brazil do them a favour – in the game that follows, to be crowned champions.
Number eight Manuel Diana scored a hat-trick as Uruguay racked up a record score against a Chile side permanently reduced to 14 men midway through the second half at Estadio La Pintana.
Los Teros showed a ruthless streak in making all their chances count against Los Condores, who lost winger Matías Balbontín, who had already been sin-binned in the first half, to a red card in the 56th minute. Chile then had to play with 13 men for a 10-minute period when Francisco de la Fuente was sent to the sin-bin.
Tomás Ianiszewski, Chile’s standout player in the Americas Rugby Championship 2018, atoned for an earlier penalty miss when he kicked them into a 10th-minute lead. Germán Albanell levelled the scores with the first of two penalties and after that, Los Teros were very smart in how they played against the wind.
The first of their nine tries – again a record against Los Condores – came from a rolling maul from a five-metre lineout, with number eight Diana emerging as the scorer.
Los Teros then scored 17 unanswered points when Balbontín was in the sin-bin for an illegal side-entry. From the ensuing penalty, Albanell added three points and went on to add two conversions to tries from Leandro Leivas – who picked a loose ball and ran home from 60 metres – and fellow winger Federico Favaro, after the visitors exploited the gap left by the sin-binned player following an attacking scrum.
In first-half stoppage time Chile, who never let their heads drop, scored a deserved try through second-row Nikola Bursic after a multi-phase build-up, to give them some hope at 27-8 down.
Uruguay thought they’d scored through new captain Andres Vilaseca as soon as the game restarted, but it was called back because a Chile player had been tripped in his attempts to get back and prevent the score.
Instead, it was Chile who scored next and, once again, Balbontín was the man in the spotlight as he intercepted a pass from Diana and scored under the posts to make Ianiszewski’s conversion a formality.
Just as it seemed Chile were back in the game, at 27-15 down, they were blown away by a Uruguayan side that that showed just why they have rattled off 14 straight test wins.
Favaro brought up the bonus point with his second from a counterattack in the 47th minute before Diana bagged himself a brace from the back of a scrum.
With 25 minutes to play and the score at 39-15, Balbontín was red carded for a dangerous charge. Replacement Andrés de León scored his first test try one minute later and then Gastón Mieres ran in an intercept try as the floodgates opened.
Reduced to 13 men, Chile were really up against it and they conceded another when Diana completed his hat-trick from close range. Manuel Blengio rounded off a fine performance from Los Teros with a 90-metre try that, with De Leon’s conversion, took the final score to 67-15.
USA produced a strong first-half display against Brazil to bag the bonus-point win that keeps them in pole position to defend their title.
Playing in their first away match of the 2018 competition, the Eagles showed no signs of travel-weariness as they took to their task from the start. Hard-running full-back Mike Te’o opened the scoring when he crossed in the left corner for an unconverted try in the fourth minute.
Josh Reeves struck back for Brazil by kicking an eighth-minute penalty, but the home side were struggling to live with their unbeaten opponents. Superior in the physicality stakes, the Eagles’ forwards regularly made good metres and the supply of quick, front-foot ball meant that inevitably holes started to appear in the home side’s defence.
Sandwiched between two mauled tries for prop Huluholo Mo’ungaloa Moungaloa and lively back-rower Hanco Germishuys, centre Bryce Campbell finished off a good team effort.
With the bonus point in the bag inside the opening half an hour, the Eagles looked well in command, but they were given a reminder of just how dangerous Brazil’s backline can be when winger Stefano Giantorno broke clean through after collecting an aimless kick from the USA and drew in the last defender to put Moisés Duque free down the left touchline.
Fly-half Reeves nailed the difficult conversion to add to his earlier penalty to make the half-time scoreline 26-10 to the USA.
Lifted by their dominant scrum and the introduction of livewire replacement Ariel Rodrigues, Brazil came out firing at the start of the second half.
Rodrigues was bundled into touch just short of the line before being called upon at the other end to stop Josh Whippy in his tracks with a brilliant cover tackle as the Eagles threatened to land a sucker punch on the counterattack.
Reeves kicked two penalties to close the gap to just nine points after both sides lost players to yellow cards for high tackles, Giantorno followed by Nick Civetta in spending 10 minutes on the sidelines.
But their comeback bid was thwarted when replacement second-row Diego López was also sent to the sin-bin for foul play, followed two minutes later by tight-head prop Jardel Vettorato, who had illegally sacked the maul which led to Tony Lamborn’s try.
Paul Lasike scored his second try in as many games off the bench, receiving a tip back from Whippy before reaching out and acrobatically planting the ball one-handed over the line. It was some finish from the American Football convert who has made an instant impression after switching codes.
Attacking straight from the restart, Germishuys got his second as the Eagles made 13-man Brazil pay for their ill-discipline and they nearly added another but Psalm Wooching was unable to keep hold of the ball with the line at his mercy.
Argentina retained some hope of reclaiming the Americas Rugby Championship title they lost last year after beating Canada 40-15 on a humid night at Estadio 23 de Agosto in Jujuy.
The Canadians opened the scoring through Brock Staller’s penalty in the fourth minute, but the Argentines found their rhythm to score three well-worked tries.
The first for Lucas Mensa, after 12 minutes, was all about continuity and control in the build-up, followed by some individual brilliance from the fly-half who dummied his way to score with two defenders on him.
Twelve minutes later, winger Santiago Álvarez Fourcade scored one of the tries of the tournament. Scrum-half Felipe Ezcurra tapped a penalty and the ball went through seven pairs of hands, including a couple of offloads, to send the Olympian scampering away in the right corner. Juan Cruz Mallía, who had missed a straightforward attempt for the first try, added the difficult conversion.
Close to the half-hour mark, centre Santiago Resino crossed for the Argentina XV's third try directly from a lineout. But Canada got themselves back in the game when Ray Barkwill scored at the back of a well-worked driving maul in the left corner.
Leading 19-8 at half-time but with a lot more to give, the Argentina XV came back from the break stronger and the try came within five minutes when Resino got his second to bag the bonus point for his team. Again, it was a neatly-taken score that involved quick hands and pace into contact.
From the following play, Santiago Montagner took a pass from his club team-mate Gaspar Baldunciel, who ran more like a back than a hooker, to score the fifth try.
Canada did not give in and, after being stopped just short on a couple of occasions, captain Phil Mack ran in an angle from close range to score a try that Staller converted for a 33-15 scoreline.
Just when the game had reached a plateau and it appeared there would be no further addition to the scoreline, Gastón Arias dotted down under posts after receiving an offload from replacement fly-half Juan Cruz González.
Photos: UAR/Gaspafotos - Pablo Oriz (Argentina XV v Canada), Daniel Pimentel (Chile v Uruguay) / Rodolfo Bazzeto / Fotojump (Brazil v USA)