An emotional win for Uruguay at an emotional venue in Kamaishi

2019 Rugby World Cup: Fiji 27-30 Uruguay

Head-to-head

Played – 4

Fiji wins – 3

Uruguay wins – 1

Did You Know?

  • This match was the first of two Rugby World Cup fixtures being played at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium and there was a minute’s silence before kick-off to remember those who lost their lives in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
  • This is only Uruguay’s third World Cup win in history and their first since 2003 (they didn’t played at RWC 2007 and 2011 and lost all of their games in 2015).

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In a nutshell

Fiji are used to being the team that inflicts upsets at Rugby World Cups, but in Kamaishi they were the victims of a shock defeat. Uruguay – ranked nine places below them at 19th – were the team that showed more creativity and accuracy, and they held out for a deserved win.

In the first half it was Uruguay who showed the razzle-dazzle the islanders are more known for while Fiji’s two tries came from their forwards.

First, Fiji used a set play from a five-metre lineout: they shaped to set a maul but Leone Nakarawa then fed Mesulame Dolokoto in the blindside channel and the hooker touched down in the corner.

Later Eroni Mawi dived over from a ruck – taking a couple of attempts to clear the bodies and find a patch of grass to ground the ball.

Uruguay, in contrast, scored a couple of tries through slick hands and decent running lines.

Santiago Arata got the first after his team had pounced on a loose ball; he darted in and out of Fiji defenders before crossing under the posts.

Then Manuel Diana used the power game Uruguay are more traditionally known for to drive over low from close range after good build-up work from the pack following a five-metre lineout.

2019 Rugby World Cup: Fiji v Uruguay

Fine finish: Juan Manuel Cat scores Uruguay’s third try (Getty Images)

The highlight of the opening 40 was Juan Manuel Cat’s try, though. It began with a poor pass but the backs interlinked well down the far side for Cat to cross and with Felipe Berchesi in fine form from the tee, Uruguay led 24-12 at the break.

Fiji got another try soon after the break, Api Ratuniyarawa spinning out of contact close to the line to score, but their own errors hampered their ability to build attacks. Moves would break down with dropped passes or unnecessary offloads and Uruguay were quick to counter. They made more than three times as many offloads as Uruguay – 23 to seven – but many didn’t go to hand and they would have been better keeping hold of the ball at times.

With the amount of possession they had, Fiji should have delivered a lot more; they were sloppy to be frank, even accounting for a short turnaround from the Australia game. And their lack of a quality goalkicker – both Josh Matavesi and Ben Volavola missed shots at goal that would have amounted to 11 points – only added to their woes.

Uruguay’s defence deserves credit, particularly in the wide channels where they kept Fiji’s runners in check for the most part with their scramble, even if they still missed 48 tackles and need to work on guarding rucks.

Mawi got over in the first half and Nikola Matawalu found space at the edge of a ruck in the second to notch Fiji’s bonus-point try. Matawalu sniped over again from a five-metre scrum in the last minute, but it was too little too late.

Uruguay held on for a famous victory and Fiji’s hopes of making the last eight look over. Emotional scenes at an emotional venue.

2019 Rugby World Cup: Fiji v Uruguay

On target: Felipe Berchesi kicked 15 points (Getty Images)

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Star man

Felipe Berchesi’s nerveless display from the tee helped Uruguay build a lead and maintain a lead as he kicked 15 points and his country secured their first-ever win over Fiji. He guided his back-line well in attack and defence as they thwarted the Fiji danger men and scored some impressive tries themselves.

2019 Rugby World Cup: Fiji v Uruguay

Memorable moment: Uruguay players celebrate a famous win (Getty Images)

The Reaction

Uruguay fly-half Felipe Berchesi: “It’s unreal. We lost 60 points against them in November. They made several changes against us today. It’s outstanding. It’s a really good day for Uruguayan rugby today.

“I hope everybody could see that, and everybody joins to play rugby in Uruguay. We need more players. We’re a really small union but we keep showing the world that we’re in a good place and they have to support us because we’ve proved ourselves strong today.”

Fiji coach John McKee: “Credit to Uruguay, the way they played and the attitude that they brought to the game – they got a great result today. For us, we were off the pace and critical errors gifted them tries. We just didn’t have the mental toughness to get back into the game.”

The Teams

Fiji: Alivereti Veitokani (Ben Volavola 52); Filipo Nakosi (Levani Botia 61), Semi Radradra, Jale Vatubua, Vereniki Goneva; Josh Matavesi, Henry Seniloli (Nikola Matawalu 57); Eroni Mawi (Campese Ma’afu 61), Mesulame Dolokoto (Tuvere Vugakoto 69), Manasa Saulo (Lee-Roy Atalifo 69), Tevita Ratuva (Tevita Cavubati 69), Api Ratuniyarawa, Dominiko Waqaniburotu (captain), Mosese Voka (Samuel Matavesi 69), Leone Nakarawa.

Tries: Dolokoto 8, Mawi 19, Ratuniyarawa 48, Matawalu 67, 80. Con: J Matavesi.

Uruguay: Gaston Mieres (Felipe Etcheverry 61); Nicolas Freitas, Juan Manuel Cat (Tomas Inciarte 38-41, 69), Andres Vilaseca, Rodrigo Silva; Felipe Berchesi, Santiago Arata (Agustin Ormaechea 57); Mateo Sanguinetti (Facundo Gattas 57), German Kessler (Guillermo Pujadas 78), Diego Arbelo (Juan Pedro Rombys 50), Ignacio Dotti (Franco Lamanna 69-77), Manuel Leindekar, Juan Manuel Gaminara (captain), Santiago Civetta, Manuel Diana (Juan Diego Ormaechea 57).

Tries: Arata 14, Diana 22, Cat 26. Cons: Berchesi 3. Pens: Berchesi 3.

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