Uruguay shock Fiji 30-27 at World Cup

Fiji’s Josh Matavesi is tackled by Uruguay’s Santiago Civetta during their Rugby World Cup match on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Updated 25 September 2019

Uruguay shock Fiji 30-27 at World Cup

  • The match was one of the most thrilling in World Cup history, full of dramatic twists and turns

KAMAISHI, JAPAN: Uruguay pulled off one of the Rugby World Cup’s largest upsets when they beat Fiji 30-27 in a match laden with significance for the disaster-ravaged town in which it was played on Wednesday.

Only days after coming close to a shock result when they led Australia 14-12 at halftime before losing 39-21, 10th-ranked Fiji found itself on the wrong end of a larger surprise, going down for the first time in four meetings to the 19th-ranked Los Teros.

Fiji scored first but Uruguay scored three first-half tries to lead 24-12 by halftime. Flyhalf Felipe Berchesi kicked two penalties to keep his team in front throughout the second half, finishing with three conversions and three penalties for 15 points.

Fiji threw everything at Uruguay in an effort to wrest back control of the game in the second half but their most ambitious attempts failed through passing and handling errors and paid dearly for poor goalkicking by Josh Matavesi and Ben Volavola.

A try after the fulltime siren to Niko Matawalu — his second of the match, which typically went unconverted — was enough to earn Fiji a losing bonus point. But the result severely jeopardized their hopes of winning a place in the knockout rounds.

The match was one of the most thrilling in World Cup history, full of dramatic twists and turns and brought to life by the indomitable spirit of the Uruguay team which were given little chance of upsetting star-studded Fiji.

Uruguay are the youngest team at the tournament, an assembly of home-based players who are semi-professional at best and can’t match the array of global stars which Fiji has at their disposal.

They played with magnificent professionalism to exploit Fiji’s errors and lead through most of the first half after conceding an opening try after only eight minutes.

They then showed extraordinary spirit to hold out Fiji as they mounted attack after attack in the late stages of the second half. The Uruguay players looked closed to exhaustion and emptied their bench by the end of the third quarter.

But Uruguay continued to defend with unshakeable courage, led by captain Juan Manuel Gaminara who tackled himself to a standstill.

Fiji were denied a try in the 80th minute when replacement flyhalf Volavola lost the ball just short of the line. Matawalu then scored the final try but it came too late to shift the result.

Fiji scored twice early through hooker Mesulame Dolokoto and prop Eroni Mawi and from what appeared to be set moves. But Uruguay produced magnificent responses through scrumhalf Santiago Arana and and back-rower Diana before a try to Juan Manuel Cat ensured they led at halftime.

Fiji cut into the lead with a try to Tevita Ratuva but Berchesi kept his tiring team ahead.

The match brought consolation and new life to a fishing town struck eight years ago by a ruinous earthquake and tsunami.

Prior to kickoff at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium both teams observed a minute’s silence for the more than 1,000 people from the town who lost their lives. 

The March 11, 2011 tsunami destroyed 30 percent of homes, 60 percent of businesses, and the stadium is built on the site of two schools destroyed by the wave. The somber note quickly passed, giving way to a celebration of rugby and of the town’s spirit.


Fernando Alonso ramps up Dakar Rally preparations with podium finish at AlUla-Neom cross-country rally

Updated 33 min 48 sec ago

Fernando Alonso ramps up Dakar Rally preparations with podium finish at AlUla-Neom cross-country rally

  • The result comes at perfect timing less than two months before two-time Formula 1 world champion tackles Dakar
  • Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi took first place

JEDDAH: Fernando Alonso continued his preparations for his Dakar Rally debut in Saudi Arabia by taking third place in AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally and secure his inaugural rally podium finish in the process this week.
The result comes at perfect timing less than two months before two-time Formula 1 world champion Alonso takes the wheel for Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020, the Middle East’s first-ever edition of Dakar Rally, which is hosted by the kingdom from 5 to 17 January.
“It was an ideal preparation for Dakar as we discovered new terrain that we will come across again at Dakar,” Alonso said.
“It is a great feeling to finish third and get the first rally podium in my life. The fact that it happened here in Saudi Arabia at this time gives us a lot of confidence going into Dakar,” Alonso added.
Starting in AlUla and extending over 765km before the finale in Neom, AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally was contested across four stages over five days, and the former Formula 1 champion said it was an “excellent training” for him on a similar terrain and in close weather conditions to what would be expected at Dakar.
Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi took first place at Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally, while compatriot Yasir Seaidan finished second, with Alonso rounding off the podium places.
Alonso, who made his desert rally debut in Morocco last month, was co-driven by five-time Dakar bike winner Marc Coma, and the Spanish duo will be together again at Dakar Saudi Arabia as part of the Toyota Gazoo Racing team.
The 2005 and 2006 Formula 1 champion got his campaign at Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally underway to a good start on Day 1 before taking the pace up a notch on the second and third days to set his team up for a podium finish on the last day. “We continue with our plan and preparations, step by step and adapting as fast as we can,” Alonso said of his plans ahead of Dakar.
Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 will consist of 12 stages, allowing pilots coming from across six continents to discover Saudi Arabia’s rich past, live its modernized present, and meet its future as they race through the Kingdom.
The pilots will kick off Rally Dakar from Jeddah, the bride of the Red Sea, through to Neom, a fully sustainable city of the future, then pass by the historical sites of Riyadh to face the Empty Quarter, a huge desert of unbroken sand, to end in Qiddiya, a future entertainment, sports and cultural destination.
A criminal investigation was been launched after an armed man intercepted a vehicle taking part in the rally.