The young condors surpassed their goal for the Junior World Rugby Trophy tournament, hosted in Temuco, Chile, taking third place Sunday after a well-fought match against Japan.
The final score, 38-35, hints at the battle that was waged between the two determined teams. The lead changed hands nine times throughout the 80 minutes, and was eventually taken by the Chileans in the last throes of the game thanks to a try by winger Jan Hasenlechner eight minutes before the final whistle.
Japan’s quick backs were matched by Chile’s formidable forwards, making for an exciting match for the 10,500 spectators gathered in Temuco’s Estadio German Becker. The fans, although largely there in support of the home team, contributed to the overall sportsmanship and positive feelings about the game.
“I am very sad with the loss. We failed in our tackling but the way the crowd clapped us off the field was nice for us,” Japanese captain Hayato Nishiuchi said Sunday to the International Rugby Board (IRB).
Although not a championship title, the third place finish was still a proud accomplishment for the condors, who finished fifth last year in Salt Lake City, US.
“Our initial goal is to better our fifth place from last year,” Chilean second row Mario Mayol, told the IRB before the start of the tournament.
The trophy was lifted by Italy Sunday evening, the favorites to win from the outset. Italy has now secured its place in the Junior World Championships in New Zealand next year, with a 45-23 win against Canada.
Italy came out of the gates hard, scoring a converted try before a full minute had passed. The lead was only further stretched throughout the first half. Although the Canucks played intelligent, solid rugby, they were ultimately no match for the dominating Italians.
“We did everything we could and can go home happy that we have a good squad for next year,” Patrick Kay, center-half and captain for the Canadian side said after Sunday’s loss.
The final results saw Tongo take fifth with a 27-7 win against Portugal, and Uruguay in seventh after a convincing 40-21 win against Namibia.
The overall success of this year’s JWRT is in large part due to the hard work of the city of Temuco. The southern city took on responsibility for the international tournament less than a month before the first kickoff after the venue changed unexpectedly from Antofagasta.
Despite the quick change of venue, fans came out by the thousands to support the home team and watch world-class rugby.
“The way the public supported this tournament was incredible and it certainly pushed us to play our best Rugby,” Angelo Esposito, fullback for Italy’s winning side, said.