March 22, 2014 (ISN) – It was honours even in the first leg of the Rugby World Cup 2015 Americas 2 qualifier with Uruguay and USA locked at 27-27 after a compelling match in Montevideo on Saturday.
With USA 18th in the IRB World Rankings and Uruguay 20th, the match promised to be competitive, and the result sets up a mouth-watering winner-takes-all encounter in Atlanta next weekend.
The winner will join a highly-competitive Pool B at England 2015 alongside 2007 champions South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the Asia 1 qualifier.
Uruguay had won just one of the previous 12 encounters between the two teams, but in perfect conditions the home side stormed out of the blocks and Joaquin Prada’s try and some fine marksmanship from Felipe Berchesi gave Uruguay a 19-6 lead approaching the interval.
USA showed great character to haul themselves into the game and Phillip Thiel’s close-range try and Folau Niua conversion got the Eagles back in the match at 19-13, dealing Uruguay a psychological blow at half time.
Berchesi extended the lead to 22-13 immediately after the break, but USA found their stride and during a purple patch of form hit back with a beautifully taken 50-metre try by the athletic second row Samu Manoa and a further fine effort from Chris Wyles to take the lead for the first time since the opening minutes at 27-22.
Uruguay’s strength at the scrum began to yield results and the home side took full advantage, scoring a try through scrum half Agustin Ormaechea inside the final 10 minutes after a series of scrums on the visitors’ five-metre line.
Both sides had their chances in a frantic final 10 minutes that saw the tempo raised in search of the winning points, but the final whistle came before the scoreboard was troubled, leaving both teams with work to do ahead of the decisive leg in Atlanta.
While defeat next weekend will not end Rugby World Cup 2015 hopes, both sides will be desperate to avoid the next phase of the play-off process, where the second place Asian team will have to be beaten before facing the winner of the Europe/Africa play-off in the Repechage final.
The return leg in Atlanta on March 29 will be streamed live at www.rugbyworldcup.com for viewers outside of the US.