Argentina XV and USA share top spot in the Americas Rugby Championship after wins over Chile and Canada, while Uruguay have to come from behind several times to edge out Brazil.
USA 30-22 Canada
It was a Saturday night to remember in Austin, Texas, for USA captain Todd Clever whose hat-trick of tries inside eight second-half minutes earned the Eagles a bonus-point, 30-22 win against neighbours Canada.
In his first match as USA captain since November 2014, 33-year-old back-row Clever completed one the fastest hat-tricks in international rugby history when he broke away from a rolling maul close to the Canadian line and ran in unopposed down the blindside in the 65th minute.
Clever’s hat-trick transformed the Eagles’ fortunes as they had trailed for all bar four minutes of the match until the first of his tries just before the hour mark.
Gordon McRorie’s four penalties had put Canada 12-10 up at the break, with USA’s points coming via Chad London’s maiden international try and five points from the boot of rookie fly-half James Bird.
McRorie stretched that lead by a further three points five minutes after the re-start before Clever got his side back on level terms to the delight of the 7,415-strong crowd at the Dell Diamond Stadium.
Taking advantage of flanker Alistair Clark’s sin-binning, the USA Eagles piled on the pressure, and the points, as a dozen were scored while their opponents were short-handed in defence.
Canada struck back in the 69th minute as Clark’s enforced 10-minute break ended, with replacement Duncan Maguire slipping away from two tackles to score in the corner. Andrew Ferguson converted the Canucks’ only try of the match for a 27-22 score line, before the hosts had the final say through the boot of replacement Nick Kruger, whose 76th minute penalty sealed a 30-22 victory for the Eagles.
The result did not affect either side’s position in the World Rugby Rankings, a two-tenths of a rating point reward not enough to take the USA any higher than their current position of 16th. Canada remain in 19th place.
Argentina XV 52-15 Chile
On a searing hot day in San Juan where temperatures touched 35C, Argentina XV ran out 52-15 winners against Chile to move to the top of the Americas Rugby Championship table on points difference from the USA.
Centre Joaquin Paz starred for the home side with four of their eight tries, including a second-half hat-trick, while all of Chile’s points came from the boot of Matias Nordenflycht.
The 8,500 spectators in the Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario did not have to wait long for the game’s first try, Segundo Tuculet finishing off a slick counterattack just two minutes into the contest.
With a dominant lineout, Pablo Bouza’s team had a surplus of possession and scored their second try in the 15th minute when Chilean full-back Leonardo Montoya failed to gather in a neat grubber from Bautista Ezcurra and, instead, centre Paz touched down.
Tuculet got his second in the 24th minute but three penalties from Nordenflycht ensured Chile, who’d been more than a match for the Argentineans in the scrum, only trailed by 10 points at the break.
A fourth penalty at the start of the second half brought Los Condores to within a score, but from the moment Paz touched down for his second try on 56 minutes, it was one-way traffic.
Replacement Santiago Portillo and winger Rodrigo Etchart got in on the act before Paz rounded off a memorable evening with two more.
Brazil 29-33 Uruguay
Uruguay had to dig deep to repel a spirited effort from Brazil in the opening game of the second round of the Americas Rugby Championship on Friday.
Despite being unable to contain the strong Uruguayan pack for long periods, the home side again showed that they can compete at this level and with time they will certainly grow. Leading throughout at different stages of the game, Brazil did get a deserved losing bonus point for a second game running.
After exchanging early penalties, the Tupís turned over possession and from the ensuing penalty and lineout, they scored the game’s opening try. Second-row Luis Vieira barged over from close range and fly-half David Harvey converted. Harvey’s second penalty put the Tupis 13 points up inside the opening quarter.
Los Teros made good use of their numerical advantage, after Wilton Rebolo was sin-binned, to claw back 12 points through a penalty try and the first of Franco Lamanna’s two tries.
Turning around one point behind, Los Teros hit the front for the first time in the match when Rodrigo Silva slotted his second penalty.
Harvey quickly wiped out the lead with his third penalty before Daniel Sancery crossed for a try worth seven points with the conversion.
Santiago Arata and Germán Kessler struck back with tries for Uruguay but another penalty from the dependable boot of Harvey edged Brazil in front again, at 29-28, with eight minutes left to play.
Brazil could not hold on though, a second yellow card, after repeated infringements, proving costly as the Uruguayan forwards made ground before Lamanna crashed over to secure victory in an entertaining game played in front of 3,500 spectators and a live TV audience across the whole of South America.
Uruguay move up one place to 21st in the World Rugby Rankings at the expense of Spain who were beaten at home by Romania in the European Nations Cup Division 1A.
Americas Rugby Championship 2016 standings
1. Argentina XV 8 points (points difference +37)
2. USA 8 points (+8)
3. Canada 5 points (+8)
4. Uruguay 5 points (-12)
5. Chile 4 points (-34)
6. Brazil 2 points (-7)
Americas Rugby Championship 2016 results and fixtures
Round 1: Chile 25-22 Brazil, Canada 33-17 Uruguay, USA 35-35 Argentina XV
Round 2: Brazil 29-33 Uruguay, Argentina XV 52-15 Chile, USA 30-22 Canada
Round 3 – 20-21 Feb - Canada v Brazil ; USA v Chile ; Uruguay v Argentina
Round 4 – 27-28 Feb - Argentina v Canada ; Brazil v USA ; Chile v Uruguay
Round 5 – 5-6 March - Chile v Canada ; Uruguay v USA ; Brazil v Argentina
Main photo: Ian Muir/Rugby Canada
Argentina XV photo: GaspaFotos/UAR