HANOVER, NH – It was a weekend of upsets, as the USA recorded its first victory over Argentina XV in the Americas Rugby Championship and Brazil took down Chile. On a separate but related note, while not an ARC match, Uruguay defeated Canada 32-31 to win the World Cup qualification series with an aggregate 70-60 score.
USA vs. Argentina XV
While the USA was first to get on the board, thanks to a penalty goal by Will Magie, the Eagles’ struggled to continue the momentum for the remainder of the first half. Sloppy play in restarts and set pieces made it difficult for them to get out of their half of the field. Fortunately, the defense was strong enough to only concede 3 points to the Argentinian attacks, despite a yellow card given to Titi Lamositele. Eventually, the USA gave into the pressure when Cam Dolan was also sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes. This gave Argentina’s 8-man, Santiago Montagner, the opportunity to pick and go from the scrum and pounded his way into the try zone to make the score 10-3 going into the half.
The second half brought saw the Eagles come out firing and they looked like a completely different team. Magie closed the gap with his second penalty goal of the match within the first few minutes to close the gap. Then in the 59th minute, Tony Lamborn grabbed the ball from the ruck and bulldozed through two Argentine defenders to get around the outside and touch down the ball.
With the score 11-10 in the Eagles’ favor, the USA controlled the game by controlling the possession battle. Former England U20 flyhalf, Will Hooley, replaced Magie and the transition was seamless, as he recorded two of his own goal kicks in the 68th and 75th minutes. With the clock winding down, the South Americans mounted their final attempt to tie the match for the third year in a row. After many phases, Rodrigo Bruni dove to the right side of the try zone and appeared to score the try in the 84th minute. However, after a TMO review, it was found that the ball was knocked-on going to the ground. With that, the Eagles held on to win 17-10. This was a decisive match for the USA as they took down their toughest competition of the tournament. The challenge will now be to continue their momentum for the remainder of the ARC.
Brazil vs. Chile
The match-up between the two South American squads lived up to the expectation of tough-fought competition. Only five minutes into the match, Chilean fullback, Tomás Ianiszewski, countered a Brazilian kick and grubbered it ahead, but was unable to touch it down. However, the referee determined that Brazilian defender, Josh Reeves, knocked over Ianiszewski without the ball and therefore gave Los Cóndores a penalty try for the first points of the match. Reeves responded with a penalty goal to make it 7-3. Brazil controlled the possession battle for the remainder of the first half which saw one more score by Brazil’s Jardel Vettorado off of a pick and go to give Os Tupis the lead.
At the beginning of the first half, Reeves extended the lead with another penalty goal. The following 20 minutes, the two teams were stuck in a scoreless stalemate with Brazil keeping the ball in the Chilean half. Then in the 60th minute that was interrupted when Reeves sniped a long-range penalty from the left side to make it 16-7. Chile quickly responded with a break through the middle of the Brazilian defense which led to a pair of offloads until the ball ended in Nicolás Garafulic’s hands to dot down the try. Brazil only held a 2 point lead, but that would be enough to secure the victory as they played in Chile’s half for the remaining ten minutes.
It was the week of the underdog. Brazil is making huge strides in its development, and I would attribute a huge part of that to the ARC. The ARC is important because it gives tier 2/3 counties more consistent games against tough opposition which is exactly what the Western Hemisphere needs for rugby. Four years ago you would never expect Brazil to soon beat Chile consistently, let alone to record victories against the USA or Canada. While I’m rooting for the USA, I’m also rooting for all the countries in the tournament. All teams but Argentina are non-Tier 1 countries and its vital for the international development of the game that these countries get more tests on a bigger stage.
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