Portugal and USA set up a Rugby World Cup 2023 Final Qualification Tournament decider after both teams made it two wins from two at The Sevens Stadium.
Os Lobos opened match-day two with a comfortable 85-0 win against Kenya, before the men’s Eagles beat Hong Kong 49-7 in Dubai on Saturday.
It means Portugal lead the standings on points difference but whoever wins the meeting between the two sides next Friday will secure the 20th and last remaining ticket to RWC 2023, and their place in Pool C.
Hong Kong and Kenya both needed to win on Saturday to have any hope of qualifying for next year’s showpiece tournament in France, and now only third place will be on the line when they go head-to-head at The Sevens Stadium next week.
Portugal too good for Kenya
Portugal dominated their contest with Kenya from start to finish, running in 13 tries to win 85-0 in the opening match at The Sevens Stadium.
It took Os Lobos less than a minute to breach the Kenyan defence as number eight Thibault de Freitas profited from a powerful driving lineout.
Scrum-half Samuel Marques converted, and he did the same in the seventh minute after Portugal hooker Mike Tadjer had dotted down at the end of another set-piece drive.
Brian Tanga thought he had got Kenya on the scoreboard in the 14th minute, but his try was ruled out due to an earlier knock-on.
The Simbas conceded a third try almost instantly, through Manuel Cardoso Pinto, and Portugal subsequently secured a try-scoring bonus point in the 22nd minute as José Lima went over.
With Kenya second-row Brian Juma in the sin-bin, Os Lobos added a fifth try before half-time when winger Vincent Pinto was the beneficiary of a smart lineout move. Marques maintained his 100 per cent record from the tee to make the score 35-0 at the break.
Needing a victory to stay in contention for a place at RWC 2023, the task facing Kenya was already huge but got even bigger within a minute of the restart as Juma received a second yellow card and was subsequently sent off.
Portugal ran in five tries in the next 20 minutes as Tadjer, Vincent Pinto, captain Tomás Appleton (twice) and Jose Andrade all crossed the whitewash. Marques converted two, while Jéronimo Portela added another to give Os Lobos a 66-0 lead with a quarter of the match remaining.
Os Lobos crossed the whitewash on a further three occasions, through a penalty try, Joāo Belo and Lionel Campergue, their 13th and final score coming after Kenya had been reduced to 13 players, Geofrey Okwach sin-binned for a dangerous tackle.
Augsperger at the double for USA
The USA knew they needed to win well to keep pace with Portugal at the top of the standings and leapfrog them in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini, and they did just that against Hong Kong.
Gregor McNeish missed a second-minute penalty that would have given Hong Kong the lead, but it proved a rare foray into their opponents’ 22.
Much of the half was played inside Hong Kong territory and USA winger Christian Dyer became the first player to cross the whitewash, however, play was brought back for an earlier forward pass.
The men’s Eagles did score a try in the 13th minute as number eight Jamason Fa’anana-Schultz powered over from close range and AJ MacGinty added the extras.
Seven minutes later the USA breached the Hong Kong defence again as hooker Kapeli Pifeleti Jr. profited from a driving lineout to score. MacGinty again converted.
The rest of the first half played out to much the same script and Nate Augsperger added a third converted American try in the 25th minute, after some slick handling.
That was followed up 11 minutes later as Cam Dolan burrowed over from close range to secure the try-scoring bonus point for his side. MacGinty’s fourth conversion gave the Eagles a 28-0 lead at the break.
Mitch Wilson latched onto a reverse pass from MacGinty to stretch the USA lead seven minutes into the second half, before Augsperger added his second and the Eagles’ sixth try of the match.
Hong Kong refused to give in, however, and got a reward with just over 15 minutes remaining as Matthew Worley danced his way over the goal line.
There was still time though for Moni Tonga’uiha to find a way over and add a bit more gloss to the scoreline with a seventh USA try.