Uruguay continue on the road to RWC 2015
By Frankie Deges
For a fifth consecutive qualifying process, Uruguay can continue to dream of a place at a Rugby World Cup after beating Chile 23-9 on the final day of the CONSUR South American Championship in Montevideo.
The quietly-celebrated Uruguayan win, in front of a vociferous 5,000-strong crowd at their new home, the Charrúa Stadium, spoke about how hard fought this match had been between two traditional rivals.
With the prize awaiting the winner of a home and away play-off against either Canada or USA for the right to qualify for RWC 2015 as Americas 2, both teams gave no quarter.
This generated an error-ridden encounter with both teams too nervous to be adventurous. It was Los Teros’ strength in the scrum that eventually proved decisive as it was through the forwards that they worked their way to a win that confirmed, once again, they are the second best team in South America.
Uruguay scored the only two tries. The first, in the fifth minute, came after Chile had played in their opponents’ half, pushing hard to open the scoring and with full back Javier Valderrama missing a penalty.
As soon as Uruguay got into Los Condores’ half, they pushed hard and a neat grubber kick by fly half Alejo Durán gave his inside centre Alberto Román the try. Agustín Ormaechea kicked the conversion.
Only two minutes later Valderrama took the penalty opportunity for pushing in the lineout and put Chile on the scoreboard. Both teams were very busy in the breakdowns and Argentine referee Francisco Pastrana was no given no option but to penalise both sides too often to make the match enjoyable.
Battling to the finish
This allowed scrum half Ormaechea to kick three first half penalties to a Valderrama second effort to give Uruguay a 16-6 advantage at half-time.
Chile were very active in the loose and had the upper hand in the lineouts – towering Pablo Huete winning his and stealing a few Uruguayan throw-ins – but struggled in the scrum, where the imposing Uruguay front row proved the difference as their scrum never took a step backwards.
There were still far too many nervous heads and the match was flat at times, perhaps understandable with so much at stake, not only continuing on the road to England 2015 but also the long-standing rivalry between the sides.
Chile had cut the deficit to 16-9 but despite needing more than a converted try to advance – due to points difference – they never seemed to be in a position to cross the try-line.
Uruguay missed a couple of opportunities by being too eager, because of the solid but tiring Chilean defence or due to unforced errors. The Ormaechea brothers Agustín and number 8 Juan – sons of Uruguay’s RWC 1999 captain and RWC 2003 coach Diego – came close after a relentless rush of attacks.
It was eventually squad captain Nicolás Klappenbach who broke through for a try under a pile of bodies. Now leading 23-9 and with only 10 minutes to play it was impossible for the Uruguayans to lose their grip on the match.
That said, Chile tried desperately to get back into the game, always led from the front by captain Rodrigo Tobar, but it was too late and even if play ended in Los Teros’ half there was no way they were going to relinquish that lead.
Next challenge awaits
When the final whistle came it was met more with relief than joy by the Uruguayan players.
“This win allows us to continue on the high performance path we set, dreaming now of qualifying,” said coach Pablo Lemoine. “The game was strange. We had it under control but gave away too many penalties, allowing them to get back at us.
“We achieved many of our goals, but I have some bad news for the players ... preparation for the Tbilisi Cup starts on Monday!”
Arturo Ávalo, captain for the day, added: “Our aggressive tackling made the difference. During the game we never felt like we would lose, but were unable to score points. It was good we managed to do so in the end.”
Uruguay must now wait until late August to know whether it will be USA or Canada they face in that Americas 2 play-off, the two North America powerhouses meeting to determine the Americas 1 qualifier for RWC 2015.
In the day’s opening match, Argentina confirmed their regional superiority by beating Brazil 85-10 with a 13-try spree. The Brazilians were well and truly beaten but had some encouraging moments in which they didn’t allow the Argentines to push them around.
Twice they came close to scoring a try, which would have been a fair reward for a team that worked very hard to compete at this level alongside the region’s top three teams.