Four Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifiers took place over the weekend with wins for Colombia in the Americas qualifying repechage and Croatia, Malta and Slovenia in Rugby Europe’s Conference system.
Colombia took on the lower-ranked Mexico in Medellin, knowing that defeat would end their dream of appearing in Japan in three years’ time.
However, Los Tucanes won through, 29-11, and can now look forward to another winner-takes-all clash against the bottom-ranked Sudamerica Rugby Championship A side Paraguay, in Asunción on 19 November. The loser, like Mexico, faces elimination from the RWC 2019 qualification process.
Los Tucanes, the Sudamerica B champions, had to wait until the 70th minute before they were certain of victory against Rugby Americas North Championship winners Mexico.
Las Serpenties had proved stubborn opponents with a try from scrum-half Andres Rodriguez and two penalties from the boot of Agustin Sanchez keeping them in the game at 17-11 down.
Centre Jose Diosa converted both of Colombia’s tries up to that point, one scored by himself, as well as kicking a penalty. But it was only when Colombian captain and number eight Sebastian Mejia crashed over that Las Serpenties’ resistance was broken.
Even then, Colombia had to survive the last five minutes with only 14 men following a yellow card to Diosa. Despite being short-handed, they managed to keep the Mexicans at bay and added to their tally when awarded a penalty try in the final minute.
The victory sees Colombia move up one place in the rankings to 41st with Mexico’s stay in the top 50 short-lived. Las Serpenties drop 0.85 of a point and five places to lie in 53rd, overtaken by Croatia, who climb four places from 55th to 51st on the back of a 47-15 victory over Andorra in Rugby Europe’s Conference 1 South.
CROATIA AT THE DOUBLE
Croatia raced into a 40-3 half-time lead in Split thanks to try doubles from winger Srdan Majkic and centre Tomislav Burazin and one apiece from fly-half Jai Ayoub and flanker Mario Ozich. Ayoub added his second after the break but Andorra replacement Franck Mitjana bagged a brace of his own to salvage some pride for the visitors.
Andorra cling on to 64th place in the rankings despite the loss of 0.39 of a point.
Malta eased to a 31-3 win against Cyprus in the other Conference 1 South tie. The game did not count towards the rankings as Cyprus are not currently a full member of World Rugby.
Slovenia racked up their biggest win for nine years to begin their Conference 2 South campaign in style.
Centre Lewis Catt and flanker Max Skofic both scored hat-tricks and George Skofic, Max’s brother, bagged a brace as Slovenia ran out comfortable winners by 74-13.
It was Slovenia’s highest score in a test match since they put 77 points past Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2007.
The victory came with a reward of 0.62 of a rating point, which was enough to lift the east Europeans above Chinese Taipei and into 66th place. Serbia fall four to 82nd.