By Frankie Deges
Italy secured a bonus-point win against home side Chile and are now guaranteed a place in next Sunday’s final of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy, in Temuco, Chile, despite one round of pool play still to be played.
The big game was played in front of a JWRT record 8,000 spectators, most of whom left the stadium disappointed with Chile having been outclassed in almost every department as the final score ticked over to 50-6.
A lot has been said in Temuco about this Italian team. They arrived full of expectations of returning to the IRB Junior World Championship after dropping down last year. And they are on course to do just that after a relentless win against a resilient Chilean side. The massive crowd that turned out to support the home team wasn’t sufficient as the Italians ran in a magnificent seven tries and secured their place in the final in eight days’ time.
A complete Italian game saw full-back Angelo Esposito leading his team with a great personal performance. The loose forward trio of Jacopo Salvetti, Gianmarco Vian and Maximme Mbanda gave the team momentum throughout the game and very seldom was their try-line was put under pressure. Tries came in different shapes and forms – the lineout being their best attacking platform – with backs and forwards sharing the spoils.
Physical presence, stamina and defensive confidence were more than enough for a 50-6 win.
“Chile tried throughout the match and never gave up so we must congratulate them, but we are here on business and want to return to the elite,” said Gianluca Guidi, Italian Head Coach. “We have another hard week of preparation because if we play against Canada (in the final), they are a very hard, physical team. Portugal is an important game to try things in our strategy. The only word we can have is to work.”
Chile coach Omar Turcumán was not expecting such a big loss. “The scoreline does show the difference between both sides and rugby nations.”
Captain Sergio Bascuñan added: “we played against a world-class opponent today.”
Canada too strong for Japan
In Pool B, Canada were clear winners against Japan and will now face Uruguay to secure a place against the Italians in the decider.
The Canucks showed their winning potential in beating Japan 39-15 in a commanding six-try performance and laid down their marker as having the potential to win the tournament. They now need just one point from their final pool match – against the winless Uruguay – to qualify for the final.
The difficult underfoot condition following some heavy rain made it a scrappy game, with both packs working overtime. It was the Canadian eight that prevailed, allowing their backs to score six tries.
Fly-half Shane O’Leary ran the show with great composure and a very educated boot. O’Leary set up two carbon-copy tries by kicking to both corners for wings Justin Douglas and Jake Webster to score. That was one of three tries scored by Webster.
Japan, who played in each of the last three JWRT finals, were exposed in the scrum and had very little momentum, yet managed to score two tries, the first by Kai Ishii showing how quick they can play the ball.
“We were well beaten by Canada in a very hard game. We didn’t play like we should have,” said Japanese captain Hayato Nishiuchi. “Our new focus has to be Tonga next Wednesday and we will work on how to reduce our mistakes.”
A happy Canadian captain Pat Kay said: “The Japanese were different to the Tongans in the first game. We planned accordingly for each game and that paid off. We came to Chile with high expectations and we still have a game to play but we are happy with how we have played in our first two.”
Portugal secure first JWRT win
In the second game at the Universidad de La Frontera, Portugal secured their first ever trophy win by scoring tries in the first and third minute to set the tone for the game. Wing Joao Afonso ran around his defender to score in the right corner. Soon after, fellow wing Bernardo Cardoso, from a turnover, crossed in the left corner. Neither try was converted.
Namibia scored their first-half try when towering lock Mahpisa Tjeriko broke down the middle for an easy conversion, leaving the first half score 13-7 for the Portuguese.
The second half had the Namibians closing down on their opponents when full-back Denver Murogua scored. The one-point difference only lasted 10 minutes when the superior possession of the winners led to Afonso scoring his second converted try. Duarte Marques added two late penalties before a 79th minute try was scored by captain Daniel Arries for the 26-17 final score.
Arries said after the game: “Those two early tries were totally unacceptable. We really wanted to win and go to the third and fourth-place playoff but it is not going to happen. We have no excuses at this level. The guys performed better than the first game and we must now step up our play for the next match.”
Portugal captain Vasco Méndes was happy with the win. “We were very focused from the first minute and that brought us very valuable early tries that got us on the front foot for the rest of the game. We had analyzed Namibia and were very well prepared for this game.
Tonga overpower Uruguay
Tonga managed their first win of the tournament by virtue of a comfortable 35-20 against Uruguay. It was an error-ridden game in which the Tongans managed to impose their unpredictable and unorthodox style by having more possession and running straight at the Uruguayans.
Uruguay scored the opening try when Santiago Martinez recovered a misdirected Tongan clearance kick and ran in to score. Martín del Cerro converted and added a penalty, while Tonga slotted two penalties from Mosese Latu before going to the break 6-10 behind.
The second half saw the Tongan approach reap benefits with a penalty try and tries by scrum-half Pita Fine’isaloi, two from hooker Jonathan Lokotui and another one by full-back Soasi Haukinima as Uruguay had three yellow cards which did not make their task any easier. The late Uruguayan try closed the gap to 35-20, although Tonga was a clear winner.
Nicolás Freitas acknowledged that discipline cost them. “We gave far too many penalties and the yellow cards affected us. They were very strong but we did not make things easy for ourselves.”
His Tonga counterpart, captain Vai Hausia added: “It was a very tough game but we managed to play hard and take the win against Uruguay. We now have to start focusing on Japan who are our next opponents.”
By Frankie Deges