Defending champions USA survive a last-gasp scare to beat Argentina XV in round one of the Americas Rugby Championship 2018 that also saw Brazil hold on to enjoy a first-ever win in Chile.
The Americas Rugby Championship 2018 continued on Saturday with the remaining round one fixtures in Santiago and California.
Brazil claimed a narrow victory over hosts Chile in the first match, before defending champions USA edged another tight battle with Argentina XV to sit behind Uruguay in the standings.
USA 17-10 ARGENTINA XV
Defending champions USA edged a close, physical and dramatic game at the StubHub Center in Carson on Saturday to beat Argentina XV 17-10 and get their Americas Rugby Championship 2018 campaign off to a winning start.
With time all but up, Argentina XV used their dominant scrum to try to go for a third successive draw in this fixture, but just as replacement Rodrigo Bruni looked set to score the winning try, Hanco Germishuys came to the Eagles’ rescue with a try-saving tackle.
After the opening round of fixtures, Uruguay lead the standings following their bonus-point win over Canada last weekend. USA and Brazil, who beat Chile 16-14 earlier on Saturday, were the other winners in round one with the three losing teams – Chile, Argentina XV and Canada – all on one point.
With two draws in their previous meetings, Argentina XV winning the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship title in 2016 and the USA Eagles taking the trophy last year, the game in California promised to be another tightly-fought encounter and it didn’t disappoint.
It might not have been the most technical of games, yet the importance of winning with four rounds still to play, given the recent history between both sides, the outcome was likely to be pivotal in determining the eventual champion.
The Argentina XV won an opening half that had three yellow cards, two for the well-supported home side and one for the visitors.
Fly-half Will Magie opened the scoring with a penalty in the 16th minute in a rare occasion to get points on the board for the USA Eagles, before his Argentina XV counterpart Juan Cruz González kicked one of his own seven minutes later.
The opening try came after a good few minutes of attack by the Felipe Contepomi-coached Argentina XV team. Cam Dolan was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and the visitors opted for a scrum and number eight Santiago Montagner charged over for a try, converted by González.
In the second half the USA soon cut Argentina XV’s advantage to 10-6 with another Magie penalty.
It then appeared that Montagner had again scored after running from the back of a maul, but a previous infringement meant the try was chalked off and instead it was the USA who scored their first try of the 2018 campaign, flanker Tony Lambort scoring in the left corner after beating three feeble tacklers.
Will Hooley came off the bench to make his international debut for the USA Eagles and kicked two penalties in the last 10 minutes as the drama began to unfold, culminating in Bruni’s chance to give his team the opportunity to go, in Groundhog Day fashion for a third successive draw.
It wasn’t to be, though, after he failed to control the ball when diving for the try under pressure from Germishuys.
“You just cannot replicate the intensity and the pressure. The challenge as we grow as a team, and our drivers and playmakers grow, is to continue to reinforce our game plan and show how well we can play rugby as a collective,” said USA captain Blaine Scully.
CHILE 14-16 BRAZIL
Brazil will climb to their highest-ever position of 25th once the World Rugby Rankings are officially updated at 12 noon on Monday after they began their Americas Rugby Championship 2018 campaign with a tense 16-14 win over Chile at the Estadio de la Pintana in Santiago.
‘Os Tupis were well worth the victory, their first ever on Chilean soil, as they recovered from an early setback to control play for long periods before withstanding a late fight-back.
Playing under brilliant blue skies in Santiago, Chile opened the scoring when referee Pablo Deluca awarded them a penalty try in the sixth minute. Los Condores full-back Tomas Ianiszewski went shoulder to shoulder with Brazil playmaker Josh Reeves as he chased down his own kick and, as the two of them went to ground in the in-goal area, Reeves deliberately palmed the ball over the dead ball line to prevent an almost certain score.
Fortunately for the visitors, the New Zealand-born player escaped further sanction and, 10 minutes later, his well-struck penalty from near the halfway line saw Chile’s lead reduced by three.
Playing into a slight breeze in the first half, Chile comfortably dealt with Brazil’s attempts to attack them with ball in hand. Their defensive pressure forced Os Tupis back behind the gain-line time and time again, until Reeves finally decided to use his big left boot to gain territory.
It took a brilliant break by scrum-half Laurent Bourda-Couhet for Brazil to properly trouble Chile, though. His darting run and pass to Moises Duque taking the visitors from one 22 to the other. A brilliant cover tackle from Ianiszewski saved a certain try but Brazil were able to maintain possession and eventually switch play to the far side where tight-head prop Jardel Vettorato rumbled over from a metre out. Reeves’ conversion brushed the inside of the post as it went over to put Brazil 10-7 up, and the score remained that way until half-time.
Brazil started the second half brightly and a second Reeves penalty four minutes after the restart extended their lead to six points. Poor handling and a mounting penalty count against them thwarted Chile’s best efforts to change the course of the game but they were given a let-off when Reeves pushed a penalty attempt just wide of the near post in the 56th minute. Reeves made no mistake with his next effort, though, letting fly from 45 metres to take Brazil’s lead to 16-7.
Chile finally sparked into life as an attacking force once coach Mark Cross decided to unload his bench, and three replacements were involved in Los Condores’ first try from open play. Benjamin Pizarro broke through the middle before passing to Beltran Vergara who, in turn, found Nicolás Garafulic up in support on his shoulder. Garafulic took the ball at pace from 15 metres out and charged over under the sticks for a debut try. Ianiszewski, Chile’s most influential player, added the conversion to bring the home side to within two points with 17 minutes left to play.
The error count climbed as players on both sides tired in energy-sapping conditions and Chile, when not pinned back inside their own half by Reeves’ excellent kicking game, failed to take what few half-chances they had in the remainder of the game, leaving Brazil to celebrate an historic victory.