In a game full of intensity, Colombia defeated Paraguay 44-29 at the Estadio Cincuentenario in Medellin to be crowned the first champions of the Americas Rugby Challenge.

In completing a clean sweep of wins over the course of the competition, Colombia will also rise to their highest-ever position of 36th in the World Rugby Rankings when they are officially updated at  12 noon on Monday.

Mexico finished in third place after a 48-36 victory over Guyana.

Maiden win

Colombia had never beaten Paraguay in seven previous attempts and another defeat looked to be on the cards as they trailed by two scores with a little more than a quarter of the match played. However, Los Tucanes stuck to their task magnificently and a superb second-half performance saw them home.

After conceding an early penalty, Colombia scored the first try of the match in the 13th minute, Neider García dotting down for his fourth try of the tournament in the 13th-minute following a swift counterattack from deep from turnover ball.

Fly-half José Manuel Diosa, another of Colombia's star turns at the Americas Rugby Challenge, converted to take his tally of points for the tournament to 44.

However, the home crowd's joy was short-lived as tries from Renato Cardona and Martín Sitar eased Paraguay into a 19-7 lead after 21 minutes. 

Diosa reached the 50-point mark for the tournament with a drop goal and a penalty before Paraguay re-established control of the scoreboard thanks to a try from second-row Mariano Garcete.

Just when it seemed that the visitors would go to the break with a comfortable lead, Colombia managed to hit back, launching an attack from the restart with the ball eventually reaching García who crossed for his second of the match. Despite trailing 24-20, the Colombians went to the break in a positive mindset and the momentum continued to be with them after the break.

First, a long kick created havoc in the Paraguayan defence and full-back Andrés Álvarez capitalised to score 15 minutes into the half. Yet, the full-back quickly turned from hero to villain as it was his mistake that handed Juan González the try that put Paraguay back in front, at 29-27.

Forward power

Colombia's pack rolled their sleeves up and replacement hooker Jorge Álvarez crashed over from close range to give Colombia the lead for the second time in the match with 14 minutes to go.

With only a precarious three-point advantage in their favour, there as no let up from the home side and they were awarded a penalty try after their scrum proved too strong for Los Yacarés.  

Flanker Diver Ceballos underlined the victory in the final couple of minutes with a 50-metre effort from the restart. 

“We are delighted with the score which comes after a lot of hard work from a lot of people both on and off the field,” said happy Colombian captain Sebastián Mejía Gil.

“Winning the Americas Rugby Challenge shows that we can take the step (up) but also obliges us to continue working so that we don’t take a backward step.”

In the other match, Mexico defeated Guyana in a battle between the bottom two and will now trade places with their Rugby Americas North rivals in the World Rugby Rankings, moving up to 48th, their joint highest ranking.

The game seemed settled by half-time, with the winners leading 31-12. The Green Machine never gave in and with their distinctive fast and loose style, they pushed the tired Mexicans to the limit, and actually 'won' the second half 24-16.