By Frankie Deges
A late penalty by Chilean full-back Francisco Urroz saw the home side celebrate a thrilling 23-21 win over Namibia and set up a third/fourth-place playoff next Sunday in the last round of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy.
Canada secured a place in the final with a solid, defensive win against Uruguay. The other finalists, Italy, were too strong for Portugal while Japan showed more control to beat a spirited Tonga. The sun was out in full in southern Chile and again, massive crowds attended JWRT matches in Pitrufquén and Freire.
Having lost to Italy in round two, the Chilean Cóndores were desperate to beat Namibia and take a place in the third/fourth-place playoff at the tournament headquarters in the beautiful Germán Becker Stadium, Temuco. They were well on track having finished the opening half 20-0, with tries coming from wing Andrés Ausset and Easter Island-born lock Nicanor Machuca. Indeed, with 57 minutes to play, it seemed one-way traffic for the Chileans.
But, unable to close the game down, the home side made too many unforced errors. They played from deep and Namibian captain Arries Daniel intercepted to score unopposed. Chile lost the grip and the Namibians came back to lead 21-20 with two more converted tries, the last in the 77th minute.
Large crowd celebrated Chile's victory
Namibia were penalised in the 79th minute for illegally slowing the ball down and the successful 35-metre kick at goal allowed the 4,000 spectators to sigh in relief and celebrate a 23-21 win.
“We failed to control the game and were too nervous during long periods of the game,” said a relieved Chilean captain Sergio Bascuñan. “Our goal was to finish higher than last year’s fifth place in Salt Lake City and now we want to take third place against what will be a tough opponent like Japan.”
Earlier, at Estadio Municipal de Freire, Italy were too strong for Portugal, beating them by a convincing 59-13, scoring five first-half tries and four in the second half. Once the bench was used, their pattern became disjointed and this allowed Portugal back into the game, and they scored two tries.
Italian captain for the day, Jacopo Salvetti, said: “We are happy with the way we won and how we have been going in the trophy but now we must only focus on the final.”
The Italians will be playing against a Canadian side that was forced to work hard against Uruguay before coming out on top by 36-15.
Canada made to work hard by Uruguay
“We played solid rugby today and have shown how we can defend in the three games so far. Our goal is to win the trophy so now we must recover and rest to be ready for what will be a big challenge against Italy,” said stand-in captain Conor McCann.
The Canadians opened the second game played at the Estadio Municipal de Pitrufquén with a third minute penalty but were soon under pressure with a Terito converted try and a penalty. Playing for position and putting their opponents under pressure, the game came their way. They managed to go to the break leading 21-10 and even if Uruguay were relentless and never gave up, the bigger size and solid mentality allowed them to win the game. Their fourth try was in the game’s last move stretching a scoreline that should have been more generous to the losers.
The opening game in Pitrufquén was the exciting clash between Tonga and Japan. As expected, both sides played the ball and kept a huge 4,000-strong crowd entertained. Japan was more controlled and managed to secure a place in the third place playoff by winning 44-23 in a match that had 10 tries.
By Frankie Deges