The World Rugby Nations Cup 2018 began with victories for hosts and defending champions Uruguay and the Argentina XV at the Carrasco Polo Club in Montevideo on Saturday.
In poor conditions, fluent attacking rugby was understandably at a premium in the opening round as Los Teros defeated Fiji Warriors 29-10 and the Argentina XV edged Emerging Italy 19-8.
Uruguay 29-10 Fiji Warriors
Los Teros gave themselves an early psychological boost ahead of their Pool D meeting with the full-blown Fiji test side in Pool D at RWC 2019 with a comfortable victory against what is the Pacific island nation’s A team.
Andrés Vilaseca scored his second double of the year, having touched down twice against Canada back in February, and Felipe Berchesi contributed 16 points with the boot, while all the Warriors’ points came from fellow fly-half Enele Malele.
It was Malele who got the scoring underway, converting his own try as Fiji raced into a 7-0 lead. However, Uruguay were soon back on level terms once Berchesi converted Vilaseca’s try. Berchesi and Malele then kicked a penalty apiece and the score stayed at 10-10 up to half-time.
In the second half, Uruguay had it all their own way against a Warriors side that struggled to impose themselves in the Montevideo mud.
With the Islanders visibly tiring as the match wore on discipline became an issue and Berchesi punished any indiscretions with penalties in the 49th, 58th, 65th, and 76th minutes. Then, with the game wrapped up, Vilaseca showed good footballing skills to kick the ball downfield, gather and score, Berchesi adding the conversion for a 29-10 scoreline.
“We set out to play the game taking the weather and field conditions into consideration and did what we set out to do,” said Nicolás Freitas, who had the privilege of playing an international game at his club ground.
“The Fijians were hard to stop but, with our defence, we forced them into penalties that we then turned into points.”
Argentina XV 19-8 Emerging Italy
Argentina XV began their bid to lift the Nations Cup began with a scrappy win over Emerging Italy.
The cold and wet conditions made for an error-strewn contest although Felipe Contepomi’s side still managed to score three tries.
In the 11th minute, the Argentina XV fashioned a score for from their first visit to the Italians’ 22, winger Facundo Cordero touching down in the left corner. Emerging Italy fly-half Andrea Menniti-Ippolito provided the only other points of a disappointing first half from the kicking tee.
As the hour-mark approached, the score remained at 5-3 to the Argentina XV but Emerging Italy gave themselves a real shot of victory when Massimo Cioffi intercepted a stray pass and set up Pierre Bruno for a score in the corner.
Trailing 8-5 with only five minutes to go the Argentina XV were staring at defeat but replacement scrum-half Gregorio del Prete spared them when he darted home from close range. Number eight Santiago Portillo then picked up at the back of an advancing scrum and crashed over to secure the win. Both late tries were converted by Joaquin Díaz Bonilla.
The Nations Cup resumes on Wednesday when the Argentina XV tackle the Fiji Warriors and Uruguay play Emerging Italy.
Photos: Frankie Deges
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