Riding high on the recent Rugby World Cup qualifying success of their national test sides, both Uruguay A and Chile A began to put pressure on selectors with wins in the opening round of the World Rugby Americas Pacific Challenge in Montevideo’s Estadio Charrúa.

Chile A lead the standings with five points after their 62-0 win over Paraguay A, with Uruguay A second on four points following their 28-12 win against Brazil A. The Argentina XV and USA Select XV match was cancelled due to COVID-19 related travel issues with the North American team, which leaves both teams on two competition points.

Chile too strong

Chile A overpowered Paraguay A 62-0 in the opening game of the World Rugby Americas Pacific Challenge, scoring eight tries in a solid performance.

Paraguay A showed glimpses of promise in the opening minutes, retaining possession over a number of phases and putting the Chileans in certain discomfort. So much so that when given an early opportunity, Chile A fly-half Diego Warnken used his educated boot to open the scores with a penalty. He would go on to add another penalty and six conversions with only one miss.

Starting with their strong scrum, the hopeful Los Cóndores attacked through the forwards, slowly creating holes in a tiring Paraguayan defence. The first half saw number eight Joaquín Milesi force through a rolling maul for the opening try in the first quarter, with two more tries scored in the final three minutes of the half.

Hooker Diego Escobar, having returned from the blood bin, scored in the 39th minute, also from the back of a maul. And when it seemed the half would finish 20-0, Warnken converted winger Vicente Tredinick’s try after a long run on the left touchline.

The momentum continued with right-wing Cristóbal Game taking a pass from Tredinick to stretch the lead to 34-0 in the 41st minute.

Paraguay tried to get onto the scoreboard but Chile’s defence continued to stay strong and captain Lukas Carvalho scored in the 56th minute from close range, closing any hope the Paraguayans had.

Fifteen minutes from full-time, Warnken converted replacement Benjamín Videla’s try and the game finished with an almost carbon copy of the first half: two tries in the last three minutes, through Tchmino Ernesto and Videla’s second.

“Our focus was in maintaining our game plan 100 per cent and we are very happy to have kept a solid defence,” said Chile captain Carvalho.

“Thinking towards Rugby World Cup, as a team we are all trying to get promoted to the full squad and tournaments such as this are very important.”

Uruguay A win thanks to a strong first half

The home side secured a hard win in a game of two halves; having gone to the break with Uruguay A 25-0, the Brazilians rallied in the second half to win it 12-3.

With many of the Brazilians having not played competitive rugby since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was understandable that they would take time to find their footing.

Uruguay A took advantage of this and were dominant in almost every facet, controlling the set pieces and finding gaps in a defence that worked very hard to contain the attacks. The home side took the earliest opportunity to score when  fly-half Matías D'Avanzo kicked a penalty in the second minute.

After scoring tries through hooker Emiliano Faccennini from the back of a maul, centre Koba Braziones sliding through a gap, and prop Ignacio Péculo attacking through the mouth of a lineout, Uruguay A were in such a dominant position that the Brazilians chose not to take three points on two occasions and instead go to the corner to reduce the deficit. D’Avanzo kicked his second of three penalties right before a break that saw them lead 25-0.

Heavy rain arrived and the Brazilians, now more aggressive and controlling much of the second half, came to the fore.

The wet ball did not help their efforts as some errors crept in at crucial moments: the Brazilians scored two tries which could have been at least three.

With Uruguay A leading 28-0, Brazil A scored a try from a lineout maul in the 59th minute, with Leonardo de Souza da Silva emerging as the scorer.

Nine minutes later, the capped Lucas Spago attacked from his fly-half position, and after a dummy pass, slid through for a try under the posts.

“We had a very good first 50 minutes when we controlled the game and attacked, but after that we let them take the momentum and they came to us and made it hard,” said winning captain Juanjuan Garese.

“The win isn’t enough because we have Chile A and Argentina XV next. We have to work on our mistakes.”

The next round

With USA Select XV expected to arrive in Montevideo on Saturday, the World Rugby Americas Pacific Challenge second round on 26 October will see them play in the early game against Brazil A, followed by Argentina XV against Paraguay A, and finishing with the encounter between Chile A and Uruguay A.

Photo credit: Frankie Deges

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