This week’s edition of Up and Under brings to a close international activity for the year. The weekly segment will return again in January 2018.
In the first meeting between Germany and Chile the South Americans recorded a big win. Played on Saturday at the Sparda Bank Hessen Stadion in Offenbach Chile ran-out convincing 32-10 winners. With Chile having fallen behind Brazil in the Americas Rankings on Sunday the win sees Los Cóndores finishing the year back above Os Tupis. The win also brings to an end what has been a tour like none other in Chilean rugby history. Los Cóndores embarked on a four match tour. They did so by opening with a win against Kenya in Hong Kong. It was followed by loses in the same city against both Hong Kong and Russia. The tour ended at 2-2.
An historic tour to Africa sees Uruguay returning home with a 2-0 record. Los Teros ran out winning by scorelines of 52-36 and 39-24 in the two test matches. Prior to the series the teams had met just once before. Played 17 years earlier Uruguay also won, making them have a 3-0 overall record against the Africans. This is no small matter. Namibia is a country to have played in the past five Rugby World Cups. Uruguay were unable to qualify for Rugby World Cups 2007 or 2011. Part of the problem was the unbalanced qualifying system handed to South America in comparison to Africa. Uruguay now prepare to face Canada, targeting the Americas 2 spot in Japan 2019.
Jamaica Men’s Sevens
Jamaica are the 2017 Men’s Rugby Americas North Sevens champions. Their impressive campaign saw them build on finishing top of their pool on day one to win the tournament played in Mexico City. In running-out winners Jamaica have officially qualified for the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco. They sealed the spot in dramatic fashion. It took a last minute try in the final to down Guyana 28-24. In addition to playing in San Francisco 2018, Jamaica also qualified for the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Sports Organization (CACSO) Games, Commonwealth Games and the 2018 Hong Kong Sevens.
Mexico Women’s Sevens
Mexico were winners in the Women’s Rugby Americas North Sevens. The home victory means that Mexico has qualified for the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens. This marks an historic first ever appearance at the event. Mexico did so by defeating Trinidad & Tobago 5-0 in the final fixture of the women’s division on Sunday evening. The tournament was a round-robin format with Bermuda, Dominican Republic, French Guyana, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, and Trinidad & Tobago all involved. Mexico finished the tournament in top spot. Second place went to French Guyana while Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago claimed third and fourth respectively.
Chile Men’s Sevens
Has there been a bigger week ever for Chilean rugby? Beating Germany in Europe followed the men’s sevens team winning Gold at the Juegos Bolivarianos earlier in the week in Colombia. Chile defeated Paraguay 24-7 in the final to claim Gold. In doing so Los Cóndores successfully defended their Bolivarian Games title, following on from winning in Chiclayo in 2013. Chile won Gold on the back of a dominant campaign. Undefeated in the pool stage, Chile defeated Peru 40-0, Venezuela 38-0, Colombia 24-0 and Paraguay 29-7.
Colombia Women’s Sevens
Colombia’s Women secured Gold Medals at the Juegos Bolivarianos at home in Santa Marta. They did so by defeating Paraguay in the final. Peru finished third to claim Bronze. The three-day event begun with Colombia sending a warning to the opposition. In the opening match of the Juegos Bolivarianos Colombia downed Venezuela 33-0. It was followed by Paraguay facing Peru in game two. With Paraguay winning Silver their opening 21-15 defeat against Peru underlines their impressive run of results which followed. Las Tucanes performed well in the final to secure Gold. The 19-5 victory over Paraguay underlined Colombia as the strongest women’s rugby competitor at the games.
The Eagles Sevens star is officially the best player in the world. Baker took home the World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Award on Sunday evening in Monaco. Earlier in the year Baker was named by World Rugby in the official 2016-17 HSBC Sevens Series Dream Team. He finished with 57 tries, six more than the next best on the circuit. Baker’s naming in the Dream Team was on the back of his immense work rate. It included his all-around skills with accurate passing and his ability to win possession at the restart.
Tuculet’s try against England in San Juan is officially the best try scored in 2017. The Argentine fullback crossed for what was a second half try in the opening match of the year for Los Pumas. It began from deep in Pumas territory and finished with Tuculet running for thirty meters before diving over. It was a two phase attack which saw a clean line-break from Matías Orlando. He then passed to Emiliano Boffelli who stepped-in to attract three defenders before off-loading to Tuculet. The IRPA Try of the Year 2017 award was determined via voting on social media. Tuculet received some 14,000 votes overall. In winning, Tuculet becomes the first player from Argentina to claim a IRPA Try of the Year award. He is the second player from the Americas following Taku Ngwenya in 2007.
Argentina finish the year ranked 8th in the world but do so with a record of 2 wins and 10 losses. The final match was a 28-19 defeat against Ireland on Saturday. Two years ago Argentina faced Ireland in Wales. The match was a Rugby World Cup Quarter Final and Los Pumas came out on top. Not only were they the winners but they had outperformed Ireland, scoring four brilliant tries. Saturday’s performance was vastly different, underlining the respective performances since that day in Cardiff. Argentina has had major difficulties in winning while the Irish have beaten England, New Zealand and South Africa.
Spain demolished Brazil on Saturday. Los Leones were by far the better team in claiming a 67-28 victory. Played in Vilajoiosa the match was the final opportunity for both countries to play in 2017. For Los Leones it was a final opportunity for players to press for selection for the upcoming Rugby World Cup qualifiers in the 2018 Rugby Europe Championship in February. Brazil’s players will now take time off before turning their attention to the 2018 Americas Rugby Championship.
Fiji brought the very best of their fan-friendly style to France as they ran in nine tries in a 57-17 win over Canada in Narbonne on Saturday. The pace, power, and outrageous ball handling skills of the Fijians gave those in attendance a wonderful spectacle, albeit at the expense of hapless Canadian defenders. While Uruguay are a vastly different opposition to that of Fiji the loss combined with other performances begs the question as to which team is favorite to be Americas 2 – Uruguay or Canada?
England completed a 3-0 series sweep of Canada as they romped to a 69-19 victory at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon. The 11-try effort makes it a combined 197 points for while conceding 36 across three games played in eight days. A massive turnover in personnel was inevitable following an intense and compressed three-year World Cup buildup, with several players also involved with the sevens program. The new names have had a rude awakening to test rugby, a gamble which will hopefully pay off in two or three years. In the meantime fans will have to grit their teeth and live with some unflattering results.
The USA fell agonizingly short to another victory on Georgian soil, falling to the Lelos by just a single point at Mikheil Meskhi Stadium on Saturday. The USA played very well but Georgia is among the top Tier 2 sides today for a reason. They defeated Canada by a big margin earlier this month and were arguably robbed of a draw away to Wales last weekend. Against the Eagles they started well but struggled in the second half. A late try from Bryce Campbell gave AJ MacGinty a shot to win the game but his conversion went wide in unfavorable windy conditions.
Uruguayan second-rower Ignacio Dotti was cited for foul play by World Rugby on Saturday. The citing commissioner required that Dotti appear at a hearing before the independent Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner of South Africa on Sunday in Windhoek. The offense was for striking Namibian second row Ruan Ludick in the head with his elbow. He pleaded guilty and has been suspended for the next three scheduled weeks of rugby which, due to the impending off-season, means Dotti is suspended until January 6. With Uruguay facing Canada on January 2018 in Vancouver the suspension will not prevent Dotti from playing. Canada host Uruguay at BC in the first of two Rugby World Cup qualifiers. The return match is to be in Montevideo on February 2.