Uruguay edge Chile in South America thriller
By Frankie Deges
While Argentina underlined their regional powerhouse status with a 111-0 against Brazil, Uruguay confirmed their place as the second best team in South America as they beat fierce rivals Chile by the smallest of margins in the second round of the 34th South American Rugby Championship.
Los Teros scored a 27-26 win against the Chileans, a painful parting shot for outgoing Chile coach Daniel Graco. In doing so Los Teros also secured a place in the next Americas Rugby Championship.
Argentina 111-0 Brazil
Playing at the Chilean Federation’s headquarters at one of the highest areas of Santiago, the Centro de Alto Rendimiento, Argentina's team of home-based players duly notched their second win in four days. Los Pumas followed a first round 40-5 victory against Uruguay by scoring 17 unanswered tries against Brazil, who had themselves opened the 'Sudamericano' with a hard-fought loss against Chile 6-19. .
Some of Brazil's first choice Tupi players were rested after the Chile game in preparation for their final match against Uruguay and Argentina opened the scoring spree early on. The ubiquitous Facundo Barrea, who earlier this year played in the HSBC Sevens World Series, scored six tries and was influential in many attacking phases.
Brazil were unable to contain the upper body strength of the Argentines and paid a heavy price. Manuel Montero, who played for Argentina in the 2010 and 2011 IRB Junior World Championships and also for the Sevens team this season, claimed a hat-trick, while Tomás Cubelli, Santiago Craig and Javier Ortega Desio each scored twice, with Ramiro Moyano y César Fruttero also scoring.
“It was a game of professionals against amateurs and a good lesson for our team,” said former All Black, Scott Robertson, caretaker coach of Brazil with fellow Cantabrian Brent Frew. “They are a team that has been working together for a long time. We are starting a path and this was part of the growth curve.”
Chile 26-27 Uruguay
The day's main fixture had more history on its side. Through the years, Uruguay has always managed to beat Chile when it has mattered the most and recently in 2008, in the final of the inaugural Junior World Rugby Trophy, Los Teritos beat the home side 20-8. No fewer than 12 of those junior players had graduated to play in this encounter too, five of the Uruguayan side and seven Chileans returning to bring added flavour to proceedings.
“It is always great to come to Chile, I hadn’t been back but today’s win adds to the great memories we have here,” said a delighted Jerónimo Etcheverry, full back in both those games.
This year’s test was much closer than the age grade international, the game undecided until the final stages. Unable to contain Uruguay’s scrum, Chile played the last 15 minutes with 14 players – even 13 for a couple of those minutes. And that pressure was to tell, Matías Arocena spoiling the party for Los Cóndores with a 79th minute penalty, which gave the Pablo Lemoine-coached team the one-point win.
In all Arocena scored 19 of the 27 points with wing Gastón Mieres scoring a try and Etcheverry kicking a penalty.
“It is a great win for us, one based on how hard we fought for each other,” said Arocena at the end of a match in which the lead changed hands seven times and in which Chile had opened the scoring through Francisco Metuaze and later led again through Felipe Brangier's score.
“We are distraught, we failed to farewell Daniel (Graco) as he deserved after being with us for four years,” said try-scorer Brangier.
The coach returns to Córdoba, Argentina on Thursday but faces one final battle with Chile when he leads their youngsters to another IRB Junior World Rugby Tropy in Salt Lake City next month.
Final day looming
Chile will now have to regroup to face a strong Argentine side, half of whom will feature in the June test match window with the other half travelling to Romania to compete for the Jaguars in the IRB Nations Cup.
Uruguay, meanwhile, will need to front up against Brazil to take a much-deserved second place.