Uruguay ‘A’ were tested by their Tongan rivals but ultimately took a decisive 34-25 win on the back of a dominant scrum at the Estadio Charrúa on Saturday. Keen to open the Americas Pacific Challenge in style, the home side struggled to find ways through a determined Tongan defense and took some time to put away the resilient visitors.
It was the Tongans who were first on the board through Samiu Muna, and at the end of the first quarter it was only the kickers who had a say. Federico Favaro replied for Uruguay before Muna added his second. The scrum was fading rapidly, however, and soon Uruguay would take advantage.
After the referee had seen enough collapses Loiola Vea was sent to the bin and that was all that was needed for the scrum to fall away completely. Manuel Diana got the credit for the pushover try and Favaro converted to give his team a four point lead. It would be immediately erased, however, when Siona Ika screamed through a gap and gave a brilliant offload from the deck to a supporting Fe’ofa’aki Kaumavae for a super Tongan score.
The scrum again paid dividends for Uruguay, first earning Favaro an easy penalty from in front of the sticks. Stuck deep in their own territory Tonga somehow managed to keep a scrum up but from first phase a wide ball went to Favaro and the winger finished well in the corner, adding the conversion from wide out for good measure.
It was the head-banded crusader again who would score just after the break. Gaston Gibernau broke clear through the line and through a massive pass to to Favaro who dashed away and just had enough pace to dive into the corner. Just as he had done to close the first half he nailed the extras to make it a 27-13 game with Uruguay threatening to run away with it.
Tonga began to bring in fresh legs and it paid off as the forwards managed to pile over from a lineout drive, with captain Sione Lolohea appropriately getting the touchdown. From a creaky but stable enough scrum Topui Sekona broke away to the blindside and tossed an equally loopy pass that somehow found Heamatangi Tu’ivai in a pint of space. He used his footwork to stay inbounds and let momentum to the rest. James Faiva’s left boot struck true from the sideline and it was a two-point game.
It was not to be for the Tongans, however, as the coup-de-grace would yet come. Once again it was the Uruguayan scrum in the limelight, and this time they would take the credit as a group. The Tongan forwards collapsed and the referee went under the posts for the penalty try.
Uruguay will look to make it two-from-two against the USA on Wednesday. Tonga hope to get a better result against an out-of-sorts Canadian team.
Tries – F. Kaumavae (32’), S. Lolohea (54’), H. Tu’ivai (63’)
Cons – S. Muna 1/1 (33’), J. Faiva 1/2 (64’)
Pens – S. Muna 2/2 (8’, 20’)
Yellow cards – L. Vea (27’)
Tries – M. Diana (28’), F. Favaro 2 (38’, 47’), Penalty try (75’)
Cons – F. Favaro 3/3 (29’, 39’, 48’)
Pens – F. Favaro 2/2 (18’, 36’)
Yellow cards – L. Segredo (76’)
1 Loiola Vea, 2 Sione Lolohea (capt.), 3 Makasine Lutua, 4 Vainanuma Manu, 5 Atunaisa Faka’osi, 6 Taniela Na’a, 7 Sione Tupou, 8 Topui Sekona, 9 Sosaia Tokai, 10 Samiu Muna, 11 Soape Polutele, 12 Fe’ofa’aki Kaumavae, 13 Fetuli Paea, 14 Heamatangi Tu’ivai, 15 Sione Ika
Replacements: 16 Leiataua Kilifi, 17 Solomone Kioa, 18 Misinale Taukalo, 19 Faiva Sailosi, 20 Aisea Puaka, 21 James Faiva, 22 Paki Afu, 23 Posiana Kamoto
1 Matías Benítez, 2 Germán Kessler, 3 Mario Sagario, 4 Diego Magno, 5 Diego Ayala, 6 Rodolfo Garese, 7 Gonzalo Soto, 8 Manuel Diana, 9 Guillermo Lijtenstein (capt.), 10 Lucas Durán, 11 Federico Favaro, 12 Agustín Della Corte, 13 Joaquín Prada, 14 Leandro Leivas, 15 Gastón Gibernau
Replacements: 16 Carlos Pombo, 17 Carlos Arboleya, 18 Facundo Gattas, 19 Juan Diego Ormaechea, 20 Leandro Segredo, 21 Nicolás Freitas, 22 Baltasar Brum, 23 Rodrigo Bocking
Referee: Vlad Iordachescu (FRR)