It took until the semi-finals of Superliga Americana de Rugby 2021 for Jaguares XV to show their real claws against a level of pressure they had not previously encountered in this year's tournament. The hard-earned 29-17 win against Olimpia Lions placed them in the first Superliga Americana de Rugby final against hosts Peñarol Rugby, who struggled to beat Selknam 17-14.
The Superliga Americana de Rugby comes to a close on Saturday, after beating the huge challenge of a COVID-19 pandemic that all but stopped normal life in South America, including rugby.
With the effort and commitment of all those involved, living in a sanitary bubble since the first week of March – first in Santiago, Chile, then in Montevideo, Uruguay – is now five days away from having conquered one of its many goals: assist Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay to prepare players ahead of the qualifiers for Rugby World Cup 2023.
First up, however, Peñarol Rugby and Jaguares XV will play for the bespoke trophy at the Charrúa Stadium in Montevideo.
A tight win for Peñarol Rugby
The Peñarol Rugby team managed to enjoy a celebratory hug after a tight, hard-fought win that has kept them in the running for silverware this year. But it wasn't plain sailing – a dominant first half that ended 17-0 was followed by a slightly more complicated second...
The first try saw loose forward Conrado Roura intercept a pass and run 60 metres to score, while the second began with a brilliant chip kick from the always efficient Nicolás Freitas and ended with Nicolás Inciarte scoring over the try line. Martín Roger added the two conversions to an earlier penalty.
Comfortably in the lead, Peñarol Rugby relaxed and gave Selknam opportunities to come into attacking zones.
Prop Matías Dittus and lock Santiago Portillo scored tries to bring their side within three points, after Santiago Videla’s goals.
11 minutes from full-time, Freitas was sent off and Selknam threw everything at Peñarol Rugby, but failed to break a stoic defense.
In sharing his joy, Roura said: “We lost our way in the second half, but our good opening half gave us enough to finally take the game. To win today at the Charrúa (Stadium) was great!”
The tournament favourites tested
Jaguares XV have been the best team in the tournament, yet in the past couple of weeks they’ve dropped their standards. Against a very motivated Olimpia Lions side, with 14 Argentine players on the field, they faced resistance that wasn't there in the previous nine games.
Having gone to the break with an uncomfortable 7-3 – a try from prop Francisco Minervino – the first six minutes of the second half brought two tries in quick succession. The first, from loose forward Lautaro Bávaro, was through brute force; the second, a piece of magic from fly-half Tomás Albornoz, attacking from number 10.
In the 54th minute, Albornoz added a penalty to his earlier goals to take the score to 24-7. But instead of losing hope to the scoreboard, Olimpia Lions only became hungrier.
Stronger in the scrum and the contact, they scored through Jerónimo Gómez Vara; five minutes from full-time, after Bávaro got his brace, Carlos Repetto scored Olimpia Lion’s second, giving them the strength to leave the field with their heads held high.
Jaguares XV flanker Frankie Gorrisen said: “It was a tough game, very physical, complicated and they had a good game plan. We are happy to have reached the final which we expect to be very hard.”