For a third consecutive Rugby World Cup Uruguay has secured a place in the winner-takes-all repechage final of the qualifying process, after earning the right to play against Russia for a place in Pool A in next year’s showpiece.
Their 28-3 win at the Charrúa Stadium against Hong Kong was not easy and only in the final quarter, with the visitors jaded, did Los Teros manage to score two tries to take the solid win.
Hong Kong, who had to travel 26 hours to reach the eastern shore of the River Plate, struggled towards the end of the game with the intensity of the Uruguayan defence. They also had to play 20 minutes with 14 players due to two second-half yellow cards, all of which combined to end their World Cup dream.
The heavy field seemingly fit the Uruguayan game plan, who took an early lead in the third minute thanks to the boot of Agustín Ormaechea. Hong Kong’s Christopher McAdam put his team on the board 10 minutes later as the game became a forward battle.
Whilst the visitors were more solid in the lineout – Jack Delaforce was impressive – the scrum was the domain of Uruguay, although they did have to work extra hard to gain any advantage. By the end of an uneventful first half, the home side only lead 6-3 as Ormaechea kicked the second of his five penalties.
“I would have wanted a bigger difference going into the second half,” explained Tero coach Pablo Lemoine. “But we knew that if we stuck to what we were aiming for we’d get there in the end.”
And get there they did. Fly-half Felipe Berchessi kicked a 50-metre penalty to open up the second half and when Hon Sum Wei was sin-binned for collapsing the scrum, Uruguay started to work on tiring Hong Kong. They only took three more points but the cracks started to appear. Eventually, when captain Nicholas Hewson was also yellow carded in the 67th minute for a professional foul, Hong Kong conceded 13 quick points with Berchessi chasing a kick for his try and openside flanker Diego Magno crashing over in the same corner to secure the 28-3 win.
“We did not play very well, but we knew this game was a final for us and we played to win. We must now start thinking about the series against Russia,” said prop Alejo Corral. “We know Russia won’t be in any way easy, we played against them earlier this year in the IRB Nations Cup so we will have to ensure we are up to our best standard.”
Uruguay qualified for RWC 1999 by beating Morocco in the final repechage Round. They played in RWC 2003 having qualified directly from the Americas and failed at the last hurdle in the following two World Cups. In 2007 they lost by one aggregate point against Portugal and were beaten by Romania in Bucharest after a 20-20 draw in Montevideo.
They will now play Russia in Krasnoyark and in Montevideo two weeks later – both dates to be confirmed – with the aggregate winner joining Australia, England, Wales and Fiji in Pool A at Rugby World Cup 2015.