Uruguay and Brazil strike Sevens gold in Rio
by Frankie Deges, in Rio de Janeiro
While Brazil's women maintained their perfect record in regional competition, Uruguay's men scored a huge upset by winning their first CONSUR title, beating Argentina in the final 17-14 with a try on the siren.
With Christ the Redeemer, one of the outstanding features in the marvellous city of Rio de Janeiro, looking over their shoulder, Los Pumas lost their first ever South American Championship and only their second match ever at this level.
With half their team graduating from IRB Junior tournaments - either the Junior World Championship or the Junior World Rugby Trophy - Los Teros of Uruguay enjoyed big wins on Saturday (60-0 against Ecuador, 64-0 against Venezuela, 19-0 win against Paraguay) and topped the group with a 10-10 draw against hosts Brazil, who had also begun with three wins.
They then narrowly beat Chile 14-7 in the first semi final, while Argentina ran out 36-0 winners against Paraguay to claim their perennial finalist spot.
The tense final went to the wire. Argentina held a 14-5 lead but the Uruguayans battled themselves back into the game and seconds away from full time the Pumas lost the ball from the restart and a huge gap opened for sprinter Gastón Mieres to run 50 metres unopposed to give his nation an unexpected but much celebrated 17-14 win.
The victory will be a huge morale boost for Los Teros, who now travel to Hong Kong, where they will be competing with 11 other regional hopefuls for three additional 'core team' places on the 2012/13 HSBC Sevens World Series.
"This win is very important for us as it is the first time we've been able to beat Argentina and win a South American Championship," said coach Luis Pedro Achard. "We have worked very hard in the build-up to Hong Kong and we go with the confidence levels very high, hoping that we can have a good tournament and get one of those three places."
Former Argentina Sevens and fifteens coach Ricardo Paganini handed the trophy to Uruguayan captain Germán Albanell. Despite his national allegiances, as CONSUR President and IRB Council Member, he was delighted with the growth in the region: "This was a very well run and played tournament. We've seen teams, both men and women, show progress and that is a good showcase for the strength of rugby in our region."
Brazil win eighth women's Sevens title
Brazil's women celebrate their eighth South American Sevens title
In the women's tournament Brazil maintained their regional dominance by taking their eighth consecutive title, this time beating Colombia, who surprised many in reaching the final.
Brazilian playmaker Paula Ishibashi continues to be the finest rugby player in South America, taking her sixth 'Most Valuable Player' award after having also played in every one of the seven previous Brazilian wins.
Having struggled to contain a fiery Uruguayan side 12-5 on day one, the only team in the region to ever beat them, Brazil met a hard-tackling Argentina side in the semi finals. After a 17-5 win, they met Colombia, who had continued to make waves with their 10-7 semi final win against Uruguay.
The Colombians would be no match for the home side, however, who beat them in a six-try 34-5 win, with captain Julia Sardá scoring a brace.
"We are delighted with the win, it is no less enjoyable because we have won it before," said Ishibashi. "We work very hard for our ways and it gives us sufficient enthusiasm now that we are soon leaving for Hong Kong."
The Brazilian women are now set to play in the second edition of the IRB Women's Sevens Challenge Cup in Hong Kong, on 23-24 March, while Argentina and Uruguay will travel from the men's competition to Asia to compete with the best in the world at the Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
The road to Rio
With the women playing alongside the men, this tournament was also a momentous occasion as it kick-started rugby's road towards the 2016 Olympic Games, where the game will return as a competition sport.
It was also the first time Brazil played under the monicker of the 'Tupi', a local indigenous tribe. Tupi was the most voted-for option on an online poll organised by the proactive Brazilian Rugby Confederation.
Members of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee were in attendance and carried out tours of the CONSUR Sevens premises as it was the first time a rugby event of this magnitude had been played in Rio.
Led by former Los Angeles 1994 400-metres medley silver medallist Ricardo Prado, the Head of Sport Competition, the group visit ensured the process is already on its way.