International rugby returned on the weekend with the South American ‘A’ and Rugby Americas North Championships both in full swing. Standouts from each of those games made it into the team, while there was also room for a couple European pros after the Champions Cup final and French knock-out matches. As for Super Rugby, perhaps it’s best left unsaid.
1 – Ramón Ayarza (Chile) A triumphant return to Los Cóndores after missing out on the Americas Rugby Championship. The Bayonne loosehead put in a man-of-the-match performance with countless carries over the gainline. His offload to Anton Petrowitsch created a vital score for Franco Velarde.
2 – Jeren Clarke (Barbados) His country may have come up short but the captain was fighting until the end. Two tries in the final quarter were just rewards for 80 minutes of effort. Uruguay’s Martín Espiga was another in contention while Tomás Dussaillant had an outstanding try-scoring cameo for Chile.
3 – Jerónimo Negrotto (Mont-de-Marsan) A second half replacement but an important one, scoring a try soon after the break and giving his team some hope in their Top 14 promotion playoff. Unfortunately it was not to be, but he can old his head up high after a strong season for the Montois.
4 – Vallon Adams (Guyana) Playing at No 8 but often a second row, so we’ve moved him up to make a highly mobile forward pack. The sight of his long strides chewing up the ground came early and often and he finished with two tries to his name. Tomas Vallejos played a more traditional set piece role for Nevers in their outstanding win over Chambéry to earn promotion to Pro D2.
5 – Diego Magno (Uruguay) Moved to his old position of flanker when Alejandro Nieto had to come off at the half-hour mark, but still did his best work in the tight-loose. While the backs were finding acres of space out wide, it was Magno doing all the dirty work up front.
6 – Richard Staglon (Guyana) Outstanding game from the dynamic vice-captain. His explosive running gave him three tries and it could have been four had he not generously passed the ball to Adams while already in-goal. Tomás Lezana was a rare Jaguares player to emerge with credit after an abysmal team performance against the Force.
7 – Anton Petrowitsch (Chile) ‘The Pitbull’ is also Mr. Consistent for the Cóndores. Once again he was all over the pitch and ran Ayarza close for top honors. Carries and tackles with menace, and showed lovely quick hands to put Velarde into the corner for the first try.
8 – Leonardo Glitz (Paraguay) Los Yakarés were clearly outmatched but their courageous No 8 was still among the most noticeable players on the pitch. Whether making tackles or cleaning up loose ball, his commitment contributed heavily to three tries in the final quarter to frustrate Uruguay.
9 – Santiago Arata (Uruguay) With a little more experience and some extra time in the weight room there is going to be a selection headache for Esteban Meneses with Agustín Ormaechea set to return. Arata was again outstanding for Los Teros with his footwork and speed of the mark making him a lethal attacker on the fringes. Andrés Rodríguez was also quality for Mexico.
10 – Agustín Sánchez (Mexico) Shifted up to his preferred flyhalf position and he didn’t disappoint, guiding the attack well in the blowout win over Bermuda. His kicking is always top drawer, among the best in the Americas, and he landed another six conversions from multiple angles on Saturday.
11 – Chris Wyles (Saracens) Probably got bumped off a couple tackles he would like to have back, but his support play and experience on attack were essential to his second consecutive Champions Cup final victory. Now firmly cemented as one of the USA’s greatest ever European pros. Fharid Samano’s massive frame caused big problems for Bermuda as the big Mexican scored once and nearly had a second that was instead ruled a penalty try.
12 – Franco Guerrero (Mexico) Formed a potent midfield combination with veteran Pascal Nadaud and got the best of the day on the scoreboard with a hat-trick of tries. With regular starter Christian Henning also in the mix Las Serpientes suddenly have three exciting players to choose from in the centres.
13 – Marcelo Bosch (Saracens) Absolutely outstanding match from the former Pumas star, whose form has been revitalised this season after getting a full summer off to recuperate from the World Cup. It seems unlikely that Daniel Hourcade will call on him for 2019 but on Saturday’s evidence there are a couple good years left in his legs.
14 – Luis Arredondo (Mexico) With Nadaud and Guerrero causing havoc in the midfield it was only a matter of time before the wingers got on the board. Arredondo touched down twice as he out-paced and out-stepped his opposition on a glory day for Mexico.
15 – Gastón Mieres (Uruguay) Played on the wing but prefers fullback so that’s where we’ll have him. Three tries thanks to some excellent team work but each also well finished by the speedster. After several months of struggling with injury he looks to be back in full flight.