Uruguay have claimed the 20th and final place at Rugby World Cup 2015 after triumphing over Russia in the two-game final qualifying round. Los Teros scored a much-celebrated 36-27 win at home in Montevideo, to win 57-49 on aggregate over the two matches.
After the Russians had won by a solitary point a fortnight earlier in Krasnoyarsk, they extended that lead in the first 40 minutes but the Uruguayans fought back after the break.
The popular Uruguayans return to the game’s showpiece event for a third time, having played in 1999 and 2003, and will join Australia, Wales, Fiji and hosts England in Pool A.
Under spectacular weather, the Estadio Charrúa, known as the Land of Los Teros, hosted the biggest home crowd in Uruguayan history as 14,000 spectators, including national President José Mujica, loudly supported their team.
“We qualified for the Rugby World Cup because we wanted it more, we deserve it for all the hard work we put in in the last four years and because on the day we managed to understand what was required to win," Uruguay coach Pablo Lemoine said afterwards.
"This is a huge day in our rugby history and one that we must enjoy knowing that from now on the hard work will be with a clear goal, to enjoy the World Cup.”
Agustín Ormaechea added: “We will go to England 2015 to enjoy what is the biggest tournament in the world. We have dreamt about this for ages and now that we have finally achieved the qualification it is an unbelievable feeling. We will celebrate tonight and then re-address our goals but that is tomorrow. We are going to the World Cup."
Russia edge first half
The scoring was opened by Yuri Kushnarev on the 10th minute with a 35-yard penalty only to be matched two minutes later by his opposite flyhalf Felipe Berchesi. Berchesi added three more points after a collapsed scrum with a 30-yard angled penalty. Kushnarev soon cancelled that with his second penalty after the Uruguayans did not release in the tackle. Berchesi drew level but soon after it was 9-6 as Kushnarev kicked his third penalty.
The scrum was a problem area for the Russians and Uruguay tried to impose their strength there, opting time and again for a scrum from a string of kickable penalties. After a third collapsed scrum Andrei Igretsov was sin-binned, allowing Berchesi to draw level with his third penalty.
Down to 10 men, the under-pressure Russian defence crept off-side and Berchesi added three points, but Uruguay gave away another easy penalty that Kushnarev converted to again draw level.
Everybody was expecting a sixth Kushnarev kick when Uruguay were penalised close to the posts but instead he cleverly ran the ball, catching the defence cold. Reversing roles, he passed to scrum-half Aleksandr Ianushkin, who scored in the left corner allowing the Russians to go in at half time leading 17-12.
Uruguay fight back
The second half followed much the same script as the opening 40 minutes. Within two minutes Kushnarev rattled a post after Uruguay strayed offside but nailed his next chance for the same infringement, as Russia led 20-12.
The crowd erupted, though, on 47 minutes when Los Teros scored a wonderful try. From a deep kick, Berchesi first and then Agustín Ormaechea ran around defenders before passing to centre Joaquín Prada, who scored under the posts. Berchesi added the conversion to close the gap to a single point.
If the backs conjured their first try the forwards made Uruguay's second when loose head Alejo Corral finally emerged from the bottom of an advancing maul. Berchesi added the conversion for the 26-20 lead and, with 23 minutes to play, the momentum had changed in favour of the home side.
Ormaechea soon scored from the back of the scrum, and this was the try that seemed to seal their flight to London - the same route his father Diego took in 1999 when he became the oldest player to play in a Rugby World Cup.
With Denis Simplikevich and Carlos Arboleya sin-binned, Vasily Artemyev scored to cut the deficit to six points, but Berchesi kicked the last penalty of the game for the 36-27 victory.
Alan Gilpin, IRB Head of Rugby World Cup, enjoyed being in Uruguay to see Los Teros qualify: “This is the end of a three-year long and enjoyable road to England 2015, that involved 83 nations, over 200 qualifying games and overall it has been a great promotion of the game worldwide.
“For the winner now comes a very enjoyable year in which they will be able to focus and prepare for the biggest World Cup ever.”