After two weeks of hard hits and tough rucks, the Junior World Rugby Trophy Tournament (JWRT), taking place in Chile’s southern city of Temuco, has moved on to the playoff phase, with the home team fighting for third place.
Chile’s under-20 side came out strong in their opening match against Paraguay on May 28, winning 18-6 in front of a cheering home crowd. The young Condors then had to face Italy, favorites to take home the JWRT. Despite putting in some strong tackles, Chile fell to the Italian powerhouse 50-6.
The home team pushed forward, taking on Namibia on Wednesday. The Condors were flying high in the first half, thanks to tries from center-half Andrés Ausset and Easter Island-born lock Nicanor Machuca. The second half proved more of a test for the Chileans, with the African side coming back with two converted tries to make it 21-20 in the 77th minute.
With a late penalty secured by flyhalf Francisco Urroz, Chile secured their place in the playoffs, and thousands of fans in the Estadio Municipal Freire breathed a unified sigh of relief and celebrated with their home team.
The young Condors will now take on heavyweights Japan in a battle for third place on June 9 in Estadio German Becker, which will see them achieve more than they did in last year’s tournament.
“Our goal was to finish higher than last year’s fifth place in Salt Lake City and now we want to take third place against what will be a tough opponent like Japan,” Chilean captain Sergio Bascuñan told the International Rugby Board (IRB).
The championship round will see Italy take on Canada directly after the Chile vs. Japan match. The Canadian side has fought hard to earn a place in the final game, defeating Tonga 6-24, Japan 39-15, and finally Uruguay 36-15.
“We played solid rugby today and have shown how we can defend in the three games so far,” said stand-in captain Conor McCann after Wednesday’s win against Uruguay. “Our goal is to win the trophy so now we must recover and rest to be ready for what will be a big challenge against Italy.”
Thousands of fans are expected to come out for the final games of the JWRT in Temuco. The record attendance for the tournament is 7,000 spectators, set in 2008 also in Chile. After the crowds that came out to support the teams in the earlier rounds, it is anticipated that Chile could surpass its own record this year.
For a full schedule of the playoff round click here.