Argentina Jaguars got off to a great start in their bid to claim a hat-trick of Americas Rugby Championship titles with a comfortable victory over USA Select on the opening day of the tournament at Westhills Stadium, Langford, British Columbia.
The Jaguars, who won the tournament in 2009 and 2010, eventually eased to a 39-3 win over the Americans after taking a while to hit their stride.
Two penalty goals from fly-half Santiago Iglesias put the Jaguars 6-0 in front before the US defence was finally breached in the 37th minute.
Inspirational captain and scrum-half Tomas Cubelli found Javier Rojas on his shoulder after a well-worked line out move in the opposition 22, and the inside centre had enough time and space to force his way over the line for a try which was converted to make the score 13-0.
Following a third missed penalty attempt by USA Select number 10, Gearoid McDonald, Argentina grabbed another crucial score just before half-time.
Having won a USA scrum against the head, Argentina exploited space down the blind side through the quick thinking and quick feet of Cubelli. Cubelli’s pass found half back partner, Iglesias, for the second try of the match. The extras were added to make the half-time score 20-0.
By now the US Select team was effectively playing for pride and they came out fired up in the second half. After a skirmish between the two sides, Uruguayan referee Joaquin Montes penalised the Jaguars and left wing, Zachary Panelinan, who had taken over the kicking duties, made no mistake from the tee to hand USA their first points of the match.
Sadly for them that was as good as it got in terms of points on the board and the Jaguars put the result beyond any doubt when replacement back Valetin Cruz gathered in a grubber kick from McDonald and ran three-quarters of the length of the field to score a breathtaking try and make it 25-3.
Two further tries from fellow replacement Moyano Ramiro – both of them converted - confirmed the Jaguars’ superiority.
Canada reward home crowd
Canada A also got off to a winning start in the second leg of the double-header, beating Uruguay 28-10 in front of a 1,745-strong home crowd.
Felipe Berchesi put Uruguay ahead with a 4th-minute penalty but Canada A responded with 18 unanswered first-half points to effectively settle the contest by half-time.
Captain Tyler Ardron led the way with the opening try of the night, the number 8 picking up a loose pass to run in unopposed from 50 metres. Connor Braid added the extras for a 7-3 lead.
After a Braid penalty, centre Patrick Parfrey put Canada even further ahead when he scored from close range.
Braid was successful again with another penalty attempt later in the first half to hand Canada A their 15-point advantage at the interval.
A second-half try by full back Liam Underhill and Braid's third penalty goal wrapped it up for Canada, who played two separate periods of the second half with only 14 men after yellow cards were shown to centre Nick Blevins and skipper Ardron.
While short-handed, Uruguay managed to finally crack the Canadian defence as Juan Diego Ormaechea scored a try with just three minutes left, which Berchesi improved to conclude the scoring.
"In the first half we possibly kicked away the ball a little bit too much so we couldn't build pressure from phases," reflected head coach Kieran Crowley, who will no doubt be looking for improvement from his side in that area of the game, as well as in their discipline, when they take on USA Select in their next match on Tuesday October 16, kick off 7.30pm.
Two hours earlier on the same day, Uruguay face South American cross border rivals Argentina Jaguars.
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