By Ciarán Duffy
The other kind of Six Nations
2016 gifts new competition to the world of rugby, as the Americas Rugby Championship began over the weekend. There have been a few different tournaments in American rugby, and now they have one mirroring the Six Nations. The first week of the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship saw the top 2, second 2, and bottom 2 teams all face off, and it made for some enthralling encounters.
Argentina will soon be rewarded for the luxury of having two international competitions to play in. They field their second team in this tournament (caps are still awarded), to give the younger players some experience. We’ve seen how it has worked for Japan, having the second team in the Asia Rugby Championship and playing their first team in the Pacific nations cup. The young talent on show provided us with enough evidence to believe the Pumas may be more than dark horses for the 2019 World Cup.
The United States will take plenty of positives from their effort, and had they came away with the win it would have been much deserved. John Mitchell took charge of the Eagles for the first time, and his reign began brightly and it was none other than Takudzwa Ngwenya who touched down first. Those of you who remember his try against South Africa in the 2007 World Cup will have no problem believing it was special, he cut in off the wing and the US were 13-0 up. The young Argentina side didn’t panic and fought their way back into the game. Scrumhalf Gonzalo Bertranou had a terrific game and is a player to keep an eye on for the rest of the tournament. He took the game by the scruff of the neck, the US had no answer for the Argentines fast offloading (remember that) and the speed at which they went wide, winger Tomas Carrio got the first of his two tries before captain Rodrigo Baez touched down, the conversion from Domingo Motti had Argentina leading 14-13. Juan Cappiello and Joaquin Paz linked up well in the centre, the latter crossed the white wash for Argentinas third try. Argentina went in 21-6 at the break.
The US made use of their early attacking position in the second half, their maul was causing trouble and eventually Todd Clever got over. 21-21 with an hour gone and it wasn’t over yet, Gonzalo Bertranou was thinking quicker than anyone else on the pitch, a quick tap and go saw him get a well deserved try. Just a minute later and Cam Dolan was storming down the field having intercepted a pass. It was all square once again. A few more twists were still to come, the US were camped in the Argentine half late on, and when Juan Cappiello was sent to the bin, the Eagles made their pressure pay off, Eric Fry barrelled over. Argentina were back level with two minutes to go when Tomas Carrio got his second try of the game, another fine passing display from Argentinas young guns. Either side could have grabbed the win late on, the US had a huge overlap but lost possession, before Gonzalo Bertranou nearly got a way for the winning try. A thrilling game finished 35-35, if you get a chance have a look at the highlights of this one (unless of course you are sick of draws). Both sides will be happy enough, the United States avoided defeat in their toughest game, and the young Argentines played some champagne rugby.
The two teams expected to finish in the middle of the pack took on each other as well, with Canada getting a convincing win over Uruguay. Two tries in the first 20 minutes made it clear that this would be Canadas day. It was 19-0 before the half-hour mark, Gordon McRorie caught a loose pass, he gave the ball to Dan Moor who had nothing but green infront of him. Uruguay were settling in a little bit, and were awarded a penalty try late in the first half.
It was Canadas better start that made the difference in the end. The second half was closer, neither side got a score until after the hour mark. It was worth the wait as Alistair Clark, having come on as a sub, got over the line mere minutes into his international career. Alejandro Nieto and Dan Moor exchanged tries before Leondro Leivas finished off the scoring with Uruguays third try. Canada were deserved 33-17 winners in the end, Uruguay will wonder why it took them so long to get going.
The first ever match in this new tournament saw Chile edge out Brazil. This game probably represented Brazils best chance of a win in the tournament, this one did seem to be somewhat of a wooden spoon decider. Chile started well, when Matias Nordenflychts penalty became the first points of the tournament, Brazil struck back with the tournaments first try, Daniel Sancery touched down. Chile were in control for the rest of the first half, tries from Italo Zunino and Francisco de la Fuente had Chile firmly in control.
Brazil started the second half the better, Felipe Sancery got their second try after brother Daniel had made a terrific line break. With only 8 points in it the pressure seemed to be on Chile, Nordenflycht missed a few penalties that would have put more day light between the sides. Despite the Brazilian pressure Jose Ignacio Larenas managed to get a way for Chiles third try of the game, surely enough to win it for them. They would have to be strong in defence for the final 10 minutes when Lucas Tranquez was there to receive Daniel Sancerys pass, one of the players of the opening round. Chile held on but should have been more comfortable. They were winning battles all over the pitch in the first half, but they let Brazil into it in the second.
In round 2 Brazil and Uruguay will look to get their first wins, they play on Friday. Saturday sees Argentina XV take on Chile, and then in the game of the round the United States of America take on Canada.
Ciarán Duffy (@VoiceQuakeDuffy) is a Leinster supporter who would watch any game of rugby while undoubtedly taking it too seriously. He enjoys over analysing and taking a pessimistic look at the bright side while talking about Irish, European, and World Rugby issues on and off the field.
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