The South Americans, mostly amateurs, led 21-12 at halftime on the back of converted tries from halfback Santiago Arata, No.8 Manuel Diana and centre Juan Manuel Cat as well as a penalty from Felipe Berchesi.
Five-eighth 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.
The wins 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.
“Everything went wrong today. It’s not the result we wanted,” Waqaniburotu admitted post-game. “It’s not the way we wanted the game to go today. We under-estimated a very good Uruguay team in the first outing for them. Congratulations to them.
“I thank all the support here today, and I thank the supporters in Fiji and wherever they supported us. Thank you.”
“It was a bit of a mental game today and everyone’s a bit down but we still got one point today so it’s still a little bit of a positive outcome for us.
“No, it’s not the result we wanted but we’ve got to keep looking forward, we can’t go back. We can’t look at what’s behind us. We’ve got to keep looking forward.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 25, 2019
Uruguay, ranked 19th in the world, were the more organised and disciplined side throughout the match in the small Japanese coastal town.
“I’m really proud of my country , we’re not the biggest, we’re not the tallest … I’m really proud of my country,” said a tearful Uruguay captain Juan Manuel Gaminara.
“You saw the passion, you saw the courage … I don’t want this to end.”
Fiji, who had been relaxing at the beach to recover from the loss against Australia, looked all at sea in the match.
Things started well, with a neat lineout move returning the ball to hooker Mesulame Dolokoto to open the scoring in the seventh minute but Arata pounced on an error from Fiji No.8 Leone Nakarawa to juke his way under the posts four minutes later.
Fiji, who didn’t play with the swashbuckling vigour they had displayed against Australia, returned to the forwards for their second try and prop Eroni Mawi dived over from a metre out on 18 minutes suggesting they would motor away from opponents they beat 68-7 last year.
However, Uruguay had other ideas and tries from Diana and Cat rocked their fancied opponents and give their small band of travelling fans hopes of an upset.
Uruguay’s dominance at the breakdown – they turned the ball over 12 times to Fiji’s six – forced another penalty and Berchesi split the uprights again to extend their lead to eight points with five minutes remaining.
Berchesi’s 15 points on the day was the most ever by a Uruguayan at a World Cup and, despite Nikola Matawalua’s late try, they were enough to secure his country a famous victory.
– additional reporting AAP
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.