While Scotland, Fiji and Georgia narrowly came up short of pulling off famous results on Saturday, leaving the top end of the rankings largely unchanged, Brazil managed to get over the line against Belgium and create a piece of history. The Os Tupis’ victory at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels was their first on European soil and prompted a three-place rise to 27th in the rankings, to equal their previous best.

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Tries from Felipe Sancery, Josh Reeves and De Wet van Niekerk helped Brazil come back from 14-3 down, but they were hanging on at the end after Black Devils’ winger Craig Dowsett crossed for a second time late on. With Argentina, Uruguay, USA and Canada also winning, it made for a memorable weekend for rugby in the Americas. Belgium drop below Brazil to 29th.

ALL BLACKS' LEAD TRIMMED

In thwarting Australia’s attempts to remove them in second place, England closed the gap on leaders New Zealand to 3.12 points as their 30-6 defeat of the Wallabies was worth more in terms of rating points than the All Blacks’ tense 22-17 victory over a fired-up Scotland at Murrayfield.

South Africa stay fifth behind Ireland – who edged Fiji 23-20 – thanks to their 18-17 win over France in Paris, picking up 0.86 of a rating point in the process. Scotland’s defeat to the All Blacks only had a minimal impact on their points total and with seventh-placed Wales not getting any reward for their scrappy 13-6 win over the lower-ranked Georgia, Gregor Townsend’s side are unchanged in sixth.

France’s defeat combined with Argentina’s 31-15 over Italy in Florence means they are now only 0.55 of a point clear of Los Pumas who move up one place, above Fiji, to ninth – the only positional change in the top 10. Daniel Hourcade’s 50th match in charge was also notable for Nicolas Sanchez overtaking the great Hugo Porta as Argentina’s second-highest points scorer.

Japan are still nearly three points adrift of the top 10 despite increasing their rating points total to 74.98 following a convincing 39-6 win over Tonga in Toulouse. Two players of Tongan origin in Amanaki Mafi and Lomano Lemeki scored for the Brave Blossoms, Lemeki crossing twice, while captain Michael Leitch and Kenki Fukuoka also dotted down.

Romania are up to 14th, one place off their all-time best ranking, after they overturned a 10-3 half-time deficit to beat Samoa 17-13 in Bucharest.  Meanwhile, USA cemented their position in 17th after a powerful second-half performance saw them surge to an impressive 46-17 win over Germany in the inaugural test between the nations.

Uruguay are now the Eagles’ nearest rivals after they moved into 18th place at Russia’s expense thanks to a 52-36 victory against Namibia in Windhoek, in which veteran number eight Alejandro Nieto grabbed a hat-trick. Rewarded with 1.69 points, Los Teros’ total now stands at 64.84 – 0.38 of a point more than the Bears who earned a fraction over a third of a point for beating Kenya and Chile in the space of four days. The win over Chile clinched them their third straight Cup of Nations title.

CANADA COME GOOD

Meanwhile, Canada closed to within one place and a third of a point of Spain in 20th, following a stirring 37-27 comeback victory in Madrid. Trailing 17-3, the Canucks’ nine-month winless run looked set to continue but try doubles from DTH van der Merwe and Taylor Paris saved their skins and handed new head coach Kingsley Jones his first win in charge of the team.

Wins over Chile and Kenya helped Hong Kong leapfrog Germany into 23rd, while Portugal stay put in 25th but with an improved rating of 57.79 after they beat the Czech Republic 45-12 in a RWC 2019 qualifier play-off. From the moment right winger Tomas Appleton scored the first of his two tries in the fourth minute, the result never really looked in any doubt.

Netherlands overcame Switzerland 30-27 in Yverdon-les-Bains, near the French border, to continue their climb up the rankings. Two tries from Sep Visser and one from fellow wing Pieter Mol eased the Dutch to lead 24-8 at the interval; however, the second half was a different story, with two Liam McBride penalties just enough for them to withstand a determined fightback from the home side. The Netherlands move up two to 26th having won both their opening Rugby Europe Trophy fixtures.

Despite not playing, Korea take advantage of other sides misfortunes to climb two places to 31st, while Paraguay and Tunisia benefit from Moldova’s 13-0 defeat away to Poland, which cost them 0.41 of a point and two places.

Wins over India and then Thailand saw Singapore clinch promotion back to Division 1 of the Asia Rugby Championship and a two-place rise to 58th, above Israel and the Philippines. Thailand are also up two, thanks to a 27-21 victory over Chinese Taipei.