Brazil’s historic win over the higher-ranked Canada on a rainy Friday evening in Sao Paulo set the tone for an amazing conclusion to the Americas Rugby Championship 2017 which ended with USA snatching the title from defending champions Argentina XV.
Twenty-four hours after Brazil’s Moises Duque, a contender for player of the championship, kicked a last-gasp conversion to clinch a 24-23 victory for Os Tupis, Eagles’ full-back Ben Cima repeated the feat to earn his side a 27-27 draw after replacement second-row David Tameilau crossed for the all-important bonus-point try with the last play of the game.
Tied on points in the standings heading into the final round, the USA crucially outscored the Argentina XV four tries to three, to take three points from the stalemate and finish on 22 points to Argentina XV’s 21.
Uruguay’s match against Chile was less dramatic, a 45-14 win resulting in Los Teros finishing third in the overall table, and moving back into the top 20 of the World Rugby Rankings as a result.
With two wins, Brazil improved on last year’s showing to claim fourth spot on points difference ahead of Canada, while Chile ended up bottom without a point to their name.
BRAZIL 24-23 CANADA
Brazil defied the 13 places between themselves and Canada in the World Rugby Rankings to pull off a famous victory in Sao Paulo.
Unsurprisingly, the Brazilian hero was Moises Duque, the outstanding centre, whose final conversion saw them do the double over North America’s finest having lowered USA’s colours the year before.
The victory will lift Brazil three places to 30th, above the Netherlands, Czech Republic and the Ukraine, when the rankings update at 12:00 GMT on Monday. Canada will fall three to 23rd, their lowest position since the World Rugby Rankings were introduced in October 2003.
It was Brazil who got off to the fast start as Daniel Sancery broke a couple of Canadian tackles to give his side a 7-0 lead after Moises Duque added the conversion.
However, Canada responded immediately as Nick Blevins side-stepped a few tacklers to get the visitors on the board. A Duque penalty in the 16th minute pushed Brazil back ahead 10-7 before Gordon McRorie scored Canada's second try from a sniping run off a lineout for a 14-10 advantage.
The lead changed hands again, though, on 37 minutes, when Sancery create space out wide with an arcing run and found Duque with an inside pass. Duque dotted down and added the conversion for a 17-14 interval lead.
In a slow second half, a McRorie penalty, as well as a rare drop goal, nudged Canada 23-17 ahead with 10 minutes to play.
Shortly after, Brett Beukeboom and Diego Lopez were shown yellow cards and the game ended 14 v 14, and with a dramatic twist.
Lucas Duque and his brother Moises both made useful inroads into Canadian territory before Yan Rosetti took play on to within inches of the line. From the ruck, Lucas Tranquez took a short pass and forced his way over from close range. Moises Duque then coolly stepped up to deliver the coup de grace.
URUGUAY 45-14 CHILE
Los Teros secured third place in the Americas Rugby Championship after beating Chile 45-14 at the Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo.
Their record of three wins and two losses this season showed the team’s progress as they build towards the South American Championship, which forms part of the Americas qualification process for Rugby World Cup 2019.
For Chile, a ninth straight loss in the competition was a disappointing way to bow out.
The opening quarter failed to live up to the passionate renditions of the national anthems and was a rather flat affair, punctuated only by the referee’s whistle and a long-range penalty from Chile fly-half Francisco González.
That seemed to spark Uruguay into life, however, and they would have almost certainly scored the game’s first try had González not illegally knocked down scrum-half Guillermo Liejtenstein’s pass, an act that cost him 10 minutes off the pitch. Germán Albanell slotted the straightforward penalty.
Six minutes later, Los Teros did breach the Chilean line after prop Juan Echeverría touched down from a driven lineout amidst a heap of bodies. Albanell added the extra two points.
Chile struck back with a penalty by Tomás Ianiszewski but before the visiting side were back to their full complement of players, Albanell spotted extra space and chipped ahead for winger Leandro Leivas to win the race to the ball. The fly-half then added the conversion and three minutes later, after taking an inside pass from his centre Andrés Vilaseca, put Leivas in for his second try with a long well-timed pass. Once again, Albanell’s conversion was good and his side led 24-6 before González closed out the half with his third successful kick at goal.
Unlike a week earlier against Canada, Uruguay came back hungry for more points even if it took them 13 minutes to score again, having spoiled a couple of earlier opportunities.
Winger Nicolás Freitas used all his power to break through the middle for his side’s fourth try close to the posts, making the conversion easy for Albanell.
With 20 minutes to play, Chile winger Ianiszewski was sin-binned for a professional foul and Los Teros took full advantage with a try for Diego Magno that full-back Rodrigo Silva converted.
Attacking from their own half, Uruguay sniffed blood and Freitas grabbed his second after a mazy run.
Beaten but not bowed, Chile grabbed a consolation when a blindside attack resulted in Nikola Bursic going over from 25 metres out.
The game finished on a sour note, however. Just when Leivas thought he had scored his hat-trick, referee Kurt Weaver had to go back and red card Uruguay’s replacement prop Mario Sagario for striking an opponent earlier in the play.
ARGENTINA XV 27-27 USA
The USA scored four tries in a 27-27 draw with Argentina XV, winning the second Americas Rugby Championship with 22 competition points.
First-half substitute David Tameilau dotted down twice in the tie as Argentina benefitted from two penalty tries and a two man-advantage spell with the Eagles down to 13 men on the field.
But John Mitchell's squad overturned a 12-point deficit in the face of an experienced Argentinean line-up to earn the draw and the overall title.
In an intense game at the Estadio Municipal, Comodoro Rivadavia, full-back Ben Cima landed a monster 55-metre penalty to get the Eagles on the board after Domingo Miotti had given Argentina XV an early lead from the kicking tee.
Reaching the half-hour mark, Argentina XV continued to pound away at the Eagles' line and they seemed certain to score until prop Chris Baumann stole the ball in a maul and the Eagles launched a counter-attack through captain Nate Augspurger.
The speedy winger ran almost 80 metres before a last-ditch tackle stopped him in his tracks. Cima, up in support, took the ball and managed to scramble over and score in the corner against the run of play.
Cima missed the difficult kick but converted the Eagles’ second try eight minutes later after the strength and experience of the pack was too much for a younger home team set of forwards who conceded ground in the maul, before replacement second-row Tameilau emerged as the scorer.
The final minutes of the first half saw Argentina XV launch relentless attacks on the Eagles’ try-line. After a handful of penalties had gone against the visitors and with four minutes of overtime played, referee Joaquín Montes awarded Argentina XV a penalty try when Mike Te’o forced a deliberate knock-on. The full-back-cum-wing spent the first 10 minutes of the second half in the sin-bin.
From the restart, the Eagles were soon under more pressure as Tameilau was sin-binned for stamping, leaving his side down to 13 players. Shortly after, Argentina XV lost influential scrum-half Sebastián Canceliere for 10 minutes for the same offence.
The flow of the game changed and all the momentum appeared to be with the home side in the second half.
A second penalty try was awarded for repeated infringements in the scrum and Argentina XV went 17-15 ahead, a lead which increased by a further three after Miotti kicked his second penalty.
As both sides unloaded their benches, a break from Argentina XV’s replacement scrum-half Lautaro Bazán Vélez put his side on the front foot. Number eight Tomas de la Vega took play on with a surging run and then passed inside to full-back Gabriel Ascarate to score under the posts. Juan Cruz González tagged on the two points with the conversion.
Leading 27-15, Argentina XV looked strong favourites to retain the trophy they won last year but Cam Dolan set the alarm bells ringing when he finished off a fine team try in the corner.
With the conversion going wide, USA still needed a seven-point try to tie the match and take the title. They piled forward and, in added time, Cima made a break and passed to Tameilau who scored under the posts, making Cima’s conversion a foregone conclusion.
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