Kamaishi: Uruguay delivered the first upset of the Rugby World Cup with a stunning 30-27 victory over an error-prone Fiji in a thrilling Pool D match at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium on Wednesday.
While not ranking as high in the shock stakes as Japan’s victory over twice-champions South Africa at the 2015 World Cup, it was every bit as deserved and the Uruguayans, many in tears, danced around the pitch in delight at the final whistle.
“I’m really proud of my country, we’re not the biggest, we’re not the tallest but we came here to win,” said Uruguay captain Juan Manuel Gaminara, draped in the flag of his country.
“We’ve been preparing for four years for this, I’m really proud of my country. We never had anything granted, we always have to qualify. You saw the passion. I’m really proud.”
The South Americans, mostly amateurs, led 24-12 at half-time on the back of converted tries from scrum-half Santiago Arata, No. 8 Manuel Diana and centre Juan Manuel Cat as well as a penalty from Felipe Berchesi.
Berchesi kicked two more penalties in the second half to keep the scoreboard ticking over as the Fijians fought to get back in the game and Los Teros held on to claim their third victory in 12 World Cup matches.
Even if they earned a losing bonus point, the upset leaves Fiji’s hopes of reaching the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2007 in tatters after they also lost their opening match to Australia on Saturday.
“Congratulations to them,” said Fiji coach John McKee. “The guys made critical errors that gifted them tries. In the first half we turned the ball over too much on the edges but we really believed we could get back in the game.
“We’ve got to get ourselves off the floor now and make sure we’re ready to play Georgia in eight days times. That’s a critical game for us.”
A delighted Berchesi said: “We are a really proud nation, we worked together as a team. I think they had really good individuals but we worked together as a team. I’m really proud of the boys.”
Five Rugby World Cup upsets
Japan 34 South Africa 32, 2015
Japan’s victory over the Springboks in Brighton went down as the biggest upset in the history of Test rugby union. Coached by the canny Eddie Jones — now in charge of England — the Cherry Blossoms refused to lie down against the two-time world champions for a first World Cup victory since 1991. Full-back Ayumu Goromaru pitched in with 24 points, but spurned a late shot at goal that would have sealed a draw. Instead the ball was worked wide to New Zealand-born winger Karne Hesketh who slid in for an injury-time try that sealed a famous win.
Fiji 38 Wales 34, 2007
Fiji dumped Wales out of the 2007 World Cup. A strong-looking Wales side found themselves 25-10 down at half-time at sun-drenched Nantes. They fought back and Martyn Williams thought he had won the game with an intercepted try, only for Fiji prop Graham Dewes to muscle over for the winning score that set up a quarter-final with eventual champions South Africa.
Western Samoa 16 Wales 13, 1991
“Thank heavens we weren’t playing all of Samoa!” was a common catchphrase after Wales’ crushing defeat by Western Samoa at a packed Cardiff Arms Park. The no-nonsense approach of a Samoan side featuring the likes of Brian Lima, Pat Lam, Frank Bunce and Apollo Perelini — who all went on to become household names — upset a battered Welsh team.
Argentina 17 France 12, 2007
A defensively resolute Argentina caused a huge upset in the opening match of the 2007 World Cup by beating hosts France 17-12, a first-ever pool stage defeat for Les Bleus. The Argentinians led 17-9 at half-time, with France only managing a David Skrela penalty in the second period. Worse was to come for France as they went down to a record 34-10 defeat by Los Pumas in the third-place play-off.
France 43 New Zealand 31, 1999
Ask a Frenchman about “French flair” and this match is often referenced. Down 24-10 at half-time, Les Bleus fought back in an epic second period, outscoring New Zealand 33-7. Christophe Lamaison racked up 28 points for France and wingers Philippe Bernat-Salles and Christophe Dominici scored memorable tries.