Uruguay stun Fiji in Kamaishi in first Rugby World Cup shock
Uruguay delivered the first upset of the Rugby World Cup with a stunning 30-27 victory over an error-prone Fiji in a Pool D match at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium on Wednesday.
The South Americans, mostly amateurs, led 21-12 at halftime on the back of converted tries from scrumhalf Santiago Arata, number eight Manuel Diana and centre Juan Manuel Cat as well as a penalty from Felipe Berchesi.
Flyhalf Berchesi kicked two more penalties in the second half to keep the scoreboard ticking over as the Fijians fought to get back in the game and Los Teros held on to claim their third victory in 12 World Cup matches.
The wins leaves Fiji's hopes of reaching the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2007 in tatters after they also lost their opening match to Australia on Saturday.
Uruguay, ranked 19th in the world, were the more organised and disciplined side throughout the match in the small Japanese coastal town.
"Credit to @RugbyUruguay, the way they played this afternoon, the attitude that they brought to the game..."@fijirugby head coach John McKee gives credit to Uruguay after his sides 30-27 loss at #RWC2019#FIJvURU #RWCKamaishi pic.twitter.com/qPQKgjFHxH— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 25, 2019
"I'm really proud of my country, we're not the biggest, we're not the tallest ... I'm really proud of my country," said a tearful Uruguay captain Juan Manuel Gaminara.
"You saw the passion, you saw the courage...I don't want this to end."
Fiji, who had been relaxing at the beach to recover from the loss against Australia, looked all at sea in the match.
Things started well, with a neat lineout move returning the ball to hooker Mesulame Dolokoto to open the scoring in the seventh minute but Arata pounced on an error from Fiji number eight Leone Nakarawa to juke his way under the posts four minutes later.
Fiji, who didn’t play with the swashbuckling vigour they had displayed against Australia, returned to the forwards for their second try and prop Eroni Mawi dived over from one metre out on 18 minutes.
Having missed his first kick, flyhalf Josh Matavesi slotted the extras and Fiji looked like they would motor away from opponents they beat 68-7 last year.
However, Uruguay had other ideas and tries from Diana and Cat rocked their fancied opponents and give their small band of travelling fans hopes of an upset.
Berchesi, who kicked four kicks from four in the first half, added another penalty shortly before the break.
Fiji responded with a try from lock Api Ratuniyarawa, who barged over the line seven minutes into the second half yet their kicking problems continued with Matavesi missing the conversion and another penalty.
Regular flyhalf Ben Volavola was brought on to steady the ship but it was Uruguay who continued to press home the advantage, with Berchesi extending their lead to 10 points with 20 minutes remaining following more Fijian indiscipline.
Fiji finally started to play some free-flowing rugby and were rewarded when substitute scrumhalf Nikola Matawalu crossed over.
However, Fiji's kicking problems continued as Volalova dragged the conversion wide.
Uruguay’s dominance at the breakdown – they turned the ball over 12 times to Fiji’s six - forced another penalty and Berchesi split the uprights again to extend their lead to eight points with five minutes remaining.
Berchesi’s 15 points on the day was the most ever by a Uruguayan at a World Cup and, despite Matawalua's late try, they were enough to secure his country a famous victory.