Uruguay have made history with their sensational 30-27 win over Fiji, notching the first major upset of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Passionate, powerful and committed, the South American nation shocked the Fijians, and the world, with their first victory in a World Cup match in 16 years.
Ranked nine places below the Flying Fijians, Uruguay were heavy underdogs going into the match in Kamaishi. How could Uruguay, a country of just 3.5 million people where rugby union is ranked well behind football and basketball in terms of popularity, match Fiji where rugby is a religion, the national pastime and they have elite professional stars playing in top leagues in France and the UK?
But sport is not played on paper, and Los Teros have shown that miracles do happen. Just like Japan against South Africa four years ago, Uruguay have shown that David can beat Goliath.
Fiji were the architects of their own demise. Perhaps struggling after an arduous opening match against Australia, though they made 12 changes for this game, the Pacific side were too ambitious and overplayed their hand.
They made error after error, their discipline was poor, their ball-handling woeful and they paid their opponents little respect. This came back to bite them. Uruguay were fully up for the clash and seized the opportunity.
The match started well for Fiji after they opened the scoring in the seventh minute. A nice set move from the lineout saw Mesulame Dolokoto touch down.
But Uruguay weren’t dropping their heads and after a sloppy Fiji offload, Santiago Arata brilliantly broke past some weak defence to score.
The conversion put them 7-5 in front. Fiji responded soon after with a try to Eroni Mawi from short range. They grabbed the lead back at 12-7. But this was as good as it got for the men in white.
Uruguay were aggressive and determined, and soon Manuel Diana barged over. Los Teros had the lead back and would not let it slip. Before the first-half had finished, Juan Manuel Cat glided over thanks to Rodrigo Silva’s outrageous offload. A penalty ensured they went into the sheds 24-12 in front at the break.
In the second half Fiji rallied and Tevita Ratuva crossed. But bad goal-kicking from Josh Matavesi proved costly. In the 59th minute Uruguay added another three points from the boot of Felipe Berchesi, making it 27-17.
In the final 15 minutes, Fiji upped their intensity to try and avoid embarrassment. Niko Matawalu dummied his way over to make it 27-22. Uruguay were defending as if their lives depended on it. Another penalty goal from Berchesi made it 30-22 and the pressure increased on the Pacific outfit.
Fiji threw everything at Uruguay in the dying stages but Los Teros would not yield. Matawalu sniped over to finally score in the 81s minute but it was not enough – the day famously belonged to the boys in blue.
“I’m really proud of my country, we are not the biggest but you can see what we can do,” Uruguay captain Juan Manuel Gaminara said.
“We have worked on this, we’ve always had to qualify, nothing granted to us, you saw the passion. Thanks to everyone who is here and believes in us. I don’t want this to end. Thanks to this city, it’s been a privilege to play here.”
What does this mean for the World Cup? Well, it shows that anything is possible. It shows the gap between the professionals and the semi-professionals, between the best and the rest, is narrowing.
Russia have demonstrated against Japan, Tonga against England, Namibia against Italy, and emphatically Uruguay against Fiji, that the top are not untouchable. They are not unbeatable.
Dreams sometimes do come true.