Uruguay Raise Level in Upset Win Over Fiji

Uruguay defeated Fiji 30-27 after taking a 24-12 lead at the break. It was a huge win for Uruguay in what will be viewed as a historic upset at the Rugby World Cup. The match will be played at Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, Iwate Prefecture, Kamaishi City on 25 September.

Fiji lost to Australia 39-21 on 21 September and falls to 0-2. Uruguay’s win over Fiji give them 4 points in the standings and places them in third place behind Wales and Australia who have 5.

Match Recap

Alivereti Veitokani began a counterattack with a chip and catch with Fiji moving to deep into Uruguay territory before Los Teros were penalized for leaving their feet at the breakdown. Fiji kicked to touch and used the lineout as a scoring platform for hooker Mesulame Dolokoto. The conversion by Josh Matavesi was wide, 5-0.

With Fiji on the attack, Leone Nakarawa lost the ball in contact and an Uruguay player dove on the ball and executed a pop pass to Santiago Arata, who finished with a try under the posts making for an easy conversion by Felipe Berschesi for a 7-5 lead.

Fiji attacked from the restart with Eroni Mawi scoring from close range and Josh Matavesi adding the extras to reclaim the lead, 12-7.

Following a blocked kick by Uruguay, they attacked from a lineout 5-meters from in-goal with Manuel Diana dotting down and Felipe Berchesi converting for a 14-12 lead.

A box kick by Arata was not fielded by Fiji allowing Uruguay to gather the ball on the bounce. The ball was swung wide left with Rodrigo Silva offloading inside to Juan Manuel Cat for a try. Berchesi then added the conversion to push the lead to 21-12.

While receiving a Fiji kick. Berchesi muffed the catch allowing Fiji to attack. The team advanced deep into Uruguay territory, but a penalty allowed Uruguay to clear. An Uruguay kick ahead had Andres Vilaceca grounding the ball just prior to the in-goal. A TMO ruled that the ball was knocked on and resulted in a defensive 5-meter scrum for Fiji. On the drive, Fiji created a penalty that allowed them to clear to their 10-meter line.

Uruguay stole the lineout and attacked within Fiji’s 22-meters. The team went through 13 phases before incidental contact was made to Juan Manuel Cat’s head by Api Ratuniyarawa. Fiji was penalized with Felipe Berchesi slotting a penalty goal to lead 24-12. Cat then left the pitch for an HIA.

What a half for Uruguay as they take a lead into the break. The team has forced errors by Fiji with their scrappy play and will look to finish with what could be the first upset of the Rugby World Cup. Fiji is currently ranked 12th by World Rugby, while Uruguay is 17th. The previous time the teams met, Fiji won 68-7.

Fiji had 61% of the possession during the first half, but Uruguay had 53% of the territory. Uruguay has benefited from having a number of their team play Major League Rugby during 2019.

Second Half

Fiji had the first scoring opportunity, however, Josh Matavesi’s attempted penalty goal sailed to the left of the posts.

Fiji attacked from the restart and went through phases. Tevita Ratuva had a strong run near in-goal and Api Ratuniyarawa finished with a try to cut the lead to 24-17 as Matavesi missed the conversion.

Fiji style of looking to offload when going into contact has resulted in numerous turnovers to Uruguay. After one such turnover, Fiji was penalized and Uruguay elected to go for points, but Berchesi’s attempted penalty goal was short.

In an attack by Uruguay, Rodrigo Silva had a long break. The sustained attack went through 15 phases before Fiji was penalized. Uruguay’s Felipe Berchesi slotted the penalty goal to push the lead to 27-17 and requires Fiji to score twice to win.

Fiji answered with a try by Niko Matawalu after a 17 phase sustained attack with Ben Volavola missing the conversion, 27-22. Fiji gained a bonus point with their fourth try.

A poach at the breakdown by Uruguay and a penalty by Fiji led to Berchesi slotting the penalty goal to lead 30-22 with 5 minutes remaining.

Fiji’s Sam Matavesi and Niko Matawalu both found gaps, but handling errors again thwarted the attack and resulted in a scrum to Uruguay at their 22-meters. Uruguay cleared into touch and Fiji attacked from a lineout near midfield. Uruguay was penalized at the breakdown with less than a minute left in the match. Uruguay furiously defended and a TMO was used to indicate that there was no try.

A penalty advantage was played with Fiji electing a 5-meter scrum. Niko Matawalu then scored a try during injury time to cut the lead to 30-27.  Volavola missed the conversion and Uruguay began their celebration with their upset win.

Uruguay had never previously defeated Fiji. Uruguay’s tenacity, scrappy play, ability to create turnovers, has led to one of the great upsets in Rugby World Cup history.

Felipe Berchesi was named Player of the Match. it was also a huge day for hooker Germán Kessler, who earned his 50th cap in the win.

Uruguay gained four points in the standings with the win and sit in third place, while Fiji picked up two bonus points in the loss to Uruguay and are in fourth place. Wales is in first-place based on point differential over Australia and have 5 points. Georgia is in fifth place with a loss in their first match to Wales and has zero points.


In a related issue, World Rugby has suspended Australia’s Reece Hodge until midnight 11 October. His high tackle, which resulted in direct contact with Peceli Yato’s head in the 25th minute, should have been a red card. Yato was removed from the match and failed an HIA, causing him to be unavailable for at least 6 days. A full account of the disciplinary action is available from World Rugby.

Australia mounted a second-half comeback in the opening match between Fiji and Australia. if a red card was issued during the match, Australia would have played down a man for 55 minutes. Would that have changed the outcome? That will never be known.

Squads & Match Preview

Fiji: 1 Eroni Mawi, 2 Mesulame Dolokoto, 3 Manasa Saulo, 4 Tevita Ratuva, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu (capt.), 7 Mosese Voka, 8 Leone Nakarawa, 9 Henry Seniloli, 10 Josh Matavesi, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 12 Jale Vatubua, 13 Semi Radradra, 14 Filipo Nakosi, 15 Alivereti Veitokani 16 Veremalua Vugakoto, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Lee-Roy Atalifo, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Sam Matavesi, 21 Niko Matawalu, 22 Ben Volavola, 23 Levani Botia

Uruguay: 1 Mateo Sanguinetti, 2 Germán Kessler, 3 Diego Arbelo, 4 Ignacio Dotti, 5 Manuel Leindekar, 6 Juan Manuel Gaminara (capt.), 7 Santiago Civetta, 8 Manuel Diana, 9 Santiago Arata, 10 Felipe Berchesi, 11 Rodrigo Silva, 12 Andrés Vilaseca, 13 Juan Manuel Cat, 14 Nicolás Freitas, 15 Gastón Mieres 16 Guillermo Pujadas, 17 Facundo Gattas, 18 Juan Pedro Rombys, 19 Franco Lamanna, 20 Juan Diego Ormaechea, 21 Agustín Ormaechea, 22 Felipe Etcheverry, 23 Tomás Inciarte

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