Australia’s Pool saw the first upset of this year’s Rugby World Cup when Uruguay beat Fiji 30-27 in a fascinating encounter in Kamaishi.
Fiji was fully expected to see off the lower-ranked Uruguayans but are now struggling to stay in contention for the quarterfinals. Uruguay has already overachieved with just their third win in their fifth Rugby World Cup. The Wallabies play Uruguay on October 5th in Oita and could find that Los Teros are unbeaten as they play Georgia next.
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The fans in Kamaishi were treated to a fabulous game. It is well deserved as the town was devastated by the tsunami in 2011. Homes and businesses were severely hit but, worst of all for the coastal town, the fishing business was mostly wiped out. Since then, the rugby-loving people of Kamaishi have worked hard to recover. This year’s Rugby World Cup is seen as part of the recovery process so it seems deserving that such a match should take place in the town. The venue, the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, is the only newly built stadium in this year’s tournament. Namibia and Canada are due to play their Pool B match at the stadium on October 13th.
The match started positively for Fiji, who had made 12 changes to the team losing to the Wallabies, when Mesulame Dolokoto ran in their first try in the fifth minute. Instead of the expected procession for Fiji, Uruguay countered with a try of their own from Santiago Arata. In the 19th minute, Fiji’s second try was scored by Eroni Mawi, and the conversion saw the lead extend to 12-7.
For the next twenty minutes, Uruguay exerted pressure on Fiji and ran up 17 unanswered points. With two converted tries and a penalty, Uruguay went into half-time with an unexpected 24-12 lead. Fiji’s first half against the Wallabies had been excellent but it was Uruguay who had turned the tables on their opponents.
The second half saw Fiji pile on the pressure, but Uruguay continued to revel in the position. When Fiji look back at the match, they will look at their kicking game and rue the profligacy. They scored three tries, but none were converted whereas Uruguay’s fly-half and kicker, Felipe Berchesi, kicked three conversions and three penalties. Uruguay ran out 30-27 winners to ensure their Rugby World Cup is already a successful one.
The statistics tell a different story than the scoreline. Fiji carried the ball for 746 metres compared to Uruguay’s 288. They won the possession 59%-41%. Forty-eight defenders beaten, 112 rucks won, 26 turnovers won, and the stats go on. However, Fiji lost the game and now need to beat Wales and hope other results go their way to be in with a chance of the quarterfinals. How things have changed since Saturday for Fiji. And for Uruguay? They will be a more dangerous opponent for the Wallabies than first thought.
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