Fiji and Namibia both broke the 50-point barrier on the opening day of the World Rugby U20 Trophy 2018 in Bucharest, as Samoa and Portugal also secured opening victories.
Despite a brief rally in the second half, hosts Romania – making their first appearance in the tournament in eight years – were beaten by Namibia, whose fly-half Denzo Bruwer ended the match with 28 points.
Fiji also enjoyed themselves on day one, running in nine tries to beat 2008 champions Uruguay 55-34 at the Stadionul National Arcul De Triumf.
Samoa have never tasted defeat at this level, and a seven-minute first-half hat-trick from centre Frank Tato ensured that proud record remains intact. Canada, meanwhile, suffered heartache on the opening day as they let a 26-11 half-time lead slip, losing by just two points against 2017 runners-up Portugal.
Pool A: Samoa 41-20 Hong Kong
Samoa have won every World Rugby U20 Trophy match they have played, winning the tournament in 2011 and 2016, but they were made to work harder than the scoreline suggests to secure their ninth successive victory at this level.
Winger Taunuu Niulevaea spurned a 10th-minute opportunity to give Laauli Rudy Leavasa's side the lead from the kicking tee, and although the opening quarter was played almost exclusively in the Hong Kong 22, the game remained scoreless.
That was until Niulevaea drew two defenders before passing inside for Tato to score 15 minutes before half-time. Having held out for so long the Hong Kong resistance crumbled and when Tato completed his hat-trick seven minutes later, Samoa led 17-0.
Hong Kong fly-half Paul Altier then missed a penalty of his own, before hooker Callum Tam cut the deficit with an unconverted try just over four minutes before the break.
Hopes of a comeback for the Asian side appeared over, though, when Samoa second-row Wesley Patu crossed in the left corner less than two minutes into the second half.
Hong Kong rallied, however, and Tam’s second try of the match, followed shortly afterwards by an Altier penalty, drew them within nine points.
Unfortunately for Stephen Dowse’s side it was as close as they got. Just before the hour mark, Samoa captain Simon Toleafoa made the game safe with his side’s fifth try.
Replacement Hong Kong scrum-half Sam Down did score to give his side a glimmer of hope with 15 minutes left, but Toleafoa and Fomai Fomai both touched down in the closing stages to add gloss to Samoa’s win.
Pool B: Uruguay 34-55 Fiji
Fiji outscored Uruguay nine tries to five as they kicked off their World Rugby U20 Trophy campaign with an entertaining victory.
Uruguay have strong pedigree at this level and the South Americans began brightly, but Juan Nicola’s profligacy with the boot meant they only led by five points following Manuel Ardao’s early try.
The misses proved costly as tries from Saimoni Uluinakauvadra and Ilekena Vudogo – either side of another wayward penalty, this time from Matias D’Avanzo – gave Fiji the lead.
Uruguay edged back in front as Ardao scored his second try but once Ratu Meli Turagaca crossed for Fiji on the stroke of half-time the Pacific Islanders never relinquished the lead.
Uluinakauvadra stretched Fiji’s advantage as he touched down for a second time less than two minutes after the restart, and following a Juan Cattivelli penalty for Uruguay, Caleb Muntz danced over for Fiji’s fifth try of the match.
Uruguay did pull within seven points as replacement hooker Nicolas Buysan crashed over, but two tries in as many minutes killed the contest. First winger Viliame Suwawa touched down in the left corner before Ratu Meli Derenalagi finished off a length-of-the-field, try-of-the-tournament contender within a minute of the restart.
The two sides traded a brace of tries in the final quarter as Mateo Vinals and Maxine Sonneveld scored either side of Turagaca’s second of the match. Lekima Nasamila then rounded off the scoring in stoppage time as his converted try took Fiji passed the 50-point mark.
POOL B: Portugal 31-29 Canada
Canada conspired to blow a 15-point half-time lead as they slipped to a fourth successive World Rugby U20 Trophy defeat.
Coach Jeff Williams had warned his side of the danger Portugal, runners-up 12 months ago, posed and for 40 minutes it looked as though that message had been heeded.
Will Percillier and Joao Mario Lima traded a brace of penalties each before Canada number eight Michael Smith powered over for the opening try.
Manuel Pinto hit back with an unconverted try for Portugal, but as half-time approached it looked as though Canada had taken the game away from Os Lobinhos. Percillier added a third penalty, and in first-half stoppage time hooker Jack McRogers crossed to help give Canada a 26-11 lead at the break.
But just as the North Americans appeared to be cruising to victory, a nightmare opening to the second half enabled Portugal to cut their deficit to one point, in just eight minutes.
The comeback started when Canada full-back Brennig Prevost’s try-saving tackle was adjudged to be high, he was shown a yellow card and Portugal were awarded a penalty try.
Things quickly got worse for Canada as Percillier joined Prevost in the sin-bin. Portugal capitalised fully on their two-man advantage from the resulting scrum, creating an overlap for Rodrigo Marta to score. Jeronimo Portela’s touchline conversion – his first involvement in the match – made the score 26-25.
A nervous half an hour ensued as Percillier missed a presentable penalty, before Manuel Cardoso Pinto took the wrong option with the goal-line in sight for Portugal. Portela’s penalty edged the Europeans in front, though, to ensure that the situation wasn’t entirely wasted.
Percillier then found his range from the tee once more to put Canada back in front, but within two minutes Williams’ side conceded a penalty underneath their own posts that Portela converted.
As time ticked down the two kickers both missed opportunities and Portugal held on, just.
POOL A: Namibia 55-26 Romania
Romania briefly threatened a fight-back of their own in the opening day’s final game, but in the end the former champions were well beaten by an impressive Namibia side.
Making their first appearance at this level since 2010, the hosts were caught cold as their visitors ran in two tries, through Chad Plato and Denzo Bruwer, with the latter converting both.
Cosmin Iliuta missed a penalty for Romania before two more successful kicks from Bruwer gave Namibia a 20-point lead with less than 25 minutes on the clock.
Andrei Pasalan did score Romania’s first try of the tournament shortly afterwards but another brace of penalties from the boot of Bruwer put Namibia firmly in control.
The hosts crossed again just before the break, through Dragos Ser, but Romania were comfortably second best and conceded within a minute of the restart as Rudi Pretorius scored in the right corner.
Bruwer showed he was human as his conversion struck the post – his first miss in seven attempts – before he also failed with a long-range penalty. The second came after Ser had been shown a yellow card, and once the Namibia fly-half had restored order with three points, Romania rallied when Adriaan Ludick joined the Romanian flanker in the sin-bin.
Prop Iulian Hartig was the first to score, from close range, just before the hour-mark and when replacement scrum-half Andrei Homiuc sniped over nine minutes later, the hosts were within eight points.
But Namibia were not in the mood for hospitality and ran in tries from Donabille Lebereki, Elmarco Beukes and Gerbus Van Wyk in the final 10 minutes to power past 50 points.
The action continues on Saturday when Uruguay kick-off proceedings against Canada before Namibia tackle Hong Kong, Samoa meet hosts Romania and day one winners Portugal and Fiji close out the day.