By Frankie Deges, in Santiago de Chile
There were no surprises as Argentina swept through the 34th South American Championship, winning their final game 59-6 and in three games scoring 210 points and concending only 11 points. Uruguay finished second after beating Brazil 27-15 in the curtain-raiser on the final day.
Comprising a powerful blend of players who will either tackle the June international test window (matches against Italy and two against France) or travel to Romania for the IRB Nations Cup, Argentina was a cut above whatever their regional neighbours could manage this week. Instead, it is amongst the other three teams where parity is surfacing.
“We can’t take anyone for granted and it was clear that we need to be up to our best standard if we don’t want to suffer any hiccups,” said Argentina captain Leonardo Senatore, the only Argentine squad member who played in last year’s Rugby World Cup. “We brought a young side which is reflective of the High Performance plans in place in our country. We are delighted with the way we won.”
Senatore's team had started with a 40-5 win against Uruguay last Sunday, then a 111-0 humbling of Brazil before they took on the home side Chile in foul weather – constant rain and bitter cold coming down from the Andes mountains – and the win was a comfortable 59-6. Eight tries were scored and a penalty try was awarded, with braces for Facundo Barrea and Román Miralles.
Uruguay consign hosts Chile to third
For Chile finishing in third place on home soil was a tough pill to swallow.
“The loss against Uruguay last Wednesday was hard, but it shows that this is a very hard tournament and you must be at the top of your game," said their centre, Francisco de la Fuente. "We have young players coming through and now we have to start building towards next year’s Rugby World Cup qualifying process.”
After taking the huge loss against Argentina, Brazil settled for their best XV in search of an elusive win. They fought very hard against a Uruguayan team that committed many mistakes – some due to the weather, others due to the spirit with which the Brazilians took to the match.
Uruguay is the only other South American team to have played in a Rugby World Cup, and Brazil provided more gutsy opposition than they might have expected - they only led 12-8 at half time. Only with the Tupis temporarily down to 14 men with a sin-binning did Los Teros take the chance to score twice, the second a penalty try after a series of collapsed scrums. Brazil never gave up despite a late Uruguayan try and indeed it was the Brazil side that was still attacking when the final whistle blew.
“We struggled at times and it is a good wake-up call for our team, as the players need to know that at this level you must always front up,” said Pablo Lemoine, the Teros’ coach who will travel to Romania next week ahead of the IRB Nations Cup.
Promising signs for Brazil
In the other camp Brent Frew, caretaker co-coach of Brazil thanks to a consultancy the Confederaçao Brasilera de Rugby is undertaking with New Zealand provincial union Canterbury, found many positives in his side.
“It is very hard for an amateur team like Brazil to play three games in such a short time but they played well in the last game and we pushed the Chileans in the first game. There is a lot of talent and with proper structures, the Brazilians will continue to grow,” said.
The Regional Association CONSUR will hold its B section tournament later in the year.
Final standings, A section: