Colombia and Venezuela were both victorious in the opening round of the Sudamerica Rugby B Championship in Lima on Sunday, boosting both their World Rugby Rankings and the chances of them appearing at Rugby World Cup 2019.
The 2016 Sudamerica Rugby B Championship doubles as a RWC 2019 qualification tournament, with the winners advancing to play newly-crowned Rugby Americas North (RAN) champions Mexico later this year.
Gerson Ortiz bagged a hat-trick and there were try doubles for fellow back-row and captain Sebastián Mejia and winger Maicol Machado as 2014 and 2015 champions Colombia ran in 13 tries in a 75-5 win over an Ecuador side that lost four men to the sin-bin.
Colombia's other tries came from outside-centre Juan Dávila, full-back Jhon Arley Urrutia, prop Diego Posada and replacements Andrés Álvarez and Oscar Forero.
Ecuador's only points came when their standout player, full-back Juan Pretel, sneaked over in the left corner for an unconverted try during the first half.
No rating points were awarded to Los Tucanes, because Ecuador are not currently a member of World Rugby with only full member unions featuring in the rankings.
Nevertheless, Colombia still managed to climb up one place in the rankings to 47th after they profited from Guyana’s 32-3 loss to Mexico in the Rugby Americas North Championship final, which cost the Guyanese seven places and a fall to 54th.
In the other game, fly-half Roberto Schaefer scored a try and kicked 13 points as Venezuela countered the loss of two men to the sin-bin to beat host nation Peru, 33-8.
Larry Brito, one of the players yellow-carded, back-row Ulises Andara and veteran Luis Zamora grabbed Venezuela's other tries in a game which was not as one-sided as the scoreline suggests.
Peru, who also lost two men to the sin-bin, managed just the one try, scored by loose forward Carlos Sotomayor, in a game dominated by the whistle of Argentine referee Martín Pettina.
Having overturned last year’s defeat to Peru, Venezuela move up three places in the rankings to 63rd, overtaking Israel, Botswana and Chinese Taipei in the process. Peru drop six places to 76th.
The Sudamerica Rugby B Championship continues on Wednesday when Colombia take on hosts Peru and Venezuela meet Ecuador.
MEXICO CONTINUE ON THE ROAD TO JAPAN
Mexico owed their maiden Rugby Americas North Championship title to a strong second-half performance against Guyana at the Estadio Roberto "Tapatio" Mendez in Mexico City.
Guyana, the 2014 champions, struck the first blow as Ryan Gonsalves kicked a second-minute penalty but they would prove to be the Green Machine's only points on a day when their poor discipline and errant goal-kicking let them down.
Guyana missed their next two attempts at goal and Mexico drew level when full-back Agustin Sanchez knocked over a three-pointer approaching the end of the first quarter. Christian Henning’s 35th-minute try, converted by Sanchez, sent Mexico into the break 10-3 up.
Guyana lost hooker Rickford Cummings to the sin-bin within minutes of the re-start but only conceded three points while he was off the field, with Sanchez once again successful from the kicking tee.
No sooner had Cummings returned than Guyana lost a second man to a yellow card when centre Claudius Butts was given a 10-minute breather.
This time Mexico were able to properly capitalise on their numerical advantage, scoring 12 points without reply thanks to tries from hooker Mizael Loredo, which Miguel Carner converted, and scrum-half Andres Rodriguez.
Winger Yeudil Suro underlined Mexico’s dominance with their fourth try in the final minute of the match.
The victory was worth 1.26 rating points to Mexico and a rise of eight places in the rankings to 48th, their highest ever position since the rankings were introduced in October 2003.
Las Serpientes are now just four-hundredths of a point and one place below Colombia, their potential opponents in the next round of the RWC 2019 qualification process in the Americas.
WINNING START FOR HUNGARY
Elsewhere, Hungary were resounding 53-5 winners over Estonia as Tallinn staged the opening fixture of the 2016-17 Rugby Europe Conference 2 North, which also forms part of the RWC 2019 qualification process.
Full-back Gregorie Collett scored a hat-trick of tries and kicked 16 points for a personal haul of 31 points and number eight David Drabbant grabbed a brace as Hungary ran in seven tries to one against.
The result of the match did not carry any rating points as Estonia are not currently a member of World Rugby.
Photos: Peru Rugby Federation and Marilyn Rebane