Only one point separates Uruguay from rivals Argentina XV and Russia at the top of the World Rugby Nations Cup 2019 standings after the South American sides were both surprisingly beaten on a dramatic day at the Estadio Charrua in Montevideo.
Los Teros were denied what would have been a priceless victory when Cliven Loubser broke their hearts with the last kick of the game, while Argentina XV fought back brilliantly in a 12-try affair against Russia but ultimately fell just short, the Bears winning 48-40.
On Saturday, River Plate rivals Uruguay and Argentina XV meet with Los Teros knowing that any form of win will be enough for them to retain the trophy for a third year. An Argentina XV win would see them claim the title unless Russia get the same number of match points from their concluding fixture against Namibia, in which case the Bears would top the table on the head-to-head ruling.
URUGUAY 28-30 NAMIBIA
Cliven Loubser won a thrilling match with the last kick of the game after Namibia had threatened to blow a golden opportunity to register a first-ever victory against defending Nations Cup champions and tournament hosts Uruguay.
The Welwitschias were ahead on the scoreboard from the moment Loubser kicked them into a 10th-minute lead but when Federico Favaro brilliantly converted German Kessler's try wide on the right with barely a minute of normal time left on the clock to make the score 28-27, it looked as though Los Teros would break their hearts.
But Loubser kept his nerve to give Phil Davies' side a real shot in the arm ahead of their participation at Rugby World Cup 2019.
After Loubser's initial strike, Namibia raced into a 17-0 lead thanks to a brace of tries from hard-running number eight Janco Venter, both converted by Loubser, after Uruguay had been reduced to 14 men following a yellow card to hooker Kessler.
Andres Vilaseca's converted try on 36 minutes gave Uruguay a foothold in the match and he crossed again, at start of the second half, following another Loubser penalty, as Los Teros closed the gap to six points.
All the momentum appeared to be with the home side, especially when Nambia lost winger Oderich Mouton to the sin-bin, but it was the Welwitschias who scored next after a terrible mix-up behind Los Teros' own line saw JC Greyling pounce on the loose ball.
With Loubser adding the simplest of conversions, Namibia led 27-14 with 63 minutes gone. However, Uruguay hit back to score two converted tries through replacement back Manual Ardao and Kessler to take the slenderest of leads.
A high tackle in centre field presented Namibia with one last chance to salvage the situation and Loubser stepped up to coolly slot the ball through the posts from a few metres short of halfway. The joyous celebrations at the end of the game showed how much the win meant to Namibia.
ARGENTINA XV 40-48 RUSSIA
Russia gave themselves an outside chance of winning the World Rugby Nations Cup for the first time after surviving a storming fightback from Argentina XV.
Both sides scored six tries apiece in a game that was only settled by Sergei Ianiushkin's 78th-minute penalty despite Russia having been 31 points up at the start of the second half.
Russia set the agenda early on with tries from their two Germans – Davydov and Godlyuk, both converted by Ramil Gaisin – inside the first six minutes. Gaisin then added a penalty to make the score 17-0 before Argentina XV finally started to justify their favourite's tag.
Tries from Nicolás Sbrocco and Jerónimo Ureta, both converted by fly-half Martín Roger, made it a three-point game approaching the hour mark.
Unbowed, Russia continued to give it a go and were rewarded for their endeavours with three tries in a devastating nine-minute spell, Davydov getting his second before centre Kirill Golosnitskiy grabbed a brace to give the Bears an unthinkable 38-14 lead.
When second-row Andrei Garbusov's try was converted by Gaisin in the 43rd minute, the game looked up for Argentina XV but they responded quite brilliantly to come within an ace of a comeback win every bit as good as the one Brazil achieved against them, in coming back from 33-3 down, at the 2018 South American Championship.
Santiago Montagner started the fightback with Argentina XV's third try on 52 minutes before a sensational 15-minute hat-trick from full-back Facundo Cordero, who scored a double in the round one win against Namibia, put them within striking distance.
Credit to Russia, they forced an error at the re-start and Ianiushkin made the game safe from the tee.