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Upset! Uruguay shock the World Cup with sensational win over Fiji

By Alex McLeod
Uruguay celebrate their shock win over Fiji. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

Uruguay have sprung one of the great World Cup upsets by defeating Fiji 30-27 at Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium.


It’s a victory that ranks alongside Japan’s famous 34-32 tip up of South Africa in Brighton four years ago as one of the tournament’s most unlikely results, with the South Americans having only ever won two matches – against Spain in 1999 and Georgia in 2003 – from 11 World Cup outings heading into this clash.

Even just 10 months ago, these two teams met in Gloucester, with the Flying Fijians routing the South Americans 68-7 at Hartpury College, but there was no indication beyond the 14th minute that such a result would emulate itself in the north of Japan.

The Pacific Islanders were the ones who got off to the better start, scoring an unconverted try through prop Mesu Dolokoto inside the fifth minute.

Those missed kick at goal foreshadowed what was to come for Fiji, especially when Uruguayan halfback Santiago Arta scooted over the Fijian tryline to level the scores, with first-five Felipe Berchesi knocking over the conversion from close range.

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Tighthead prop Eroni Mawi then re-claimed the lead for Fiji four minutes later, with Josh Matavesi slotting his only kick at goal of the afternoon to put his side up by five points.

For the rest of the half, though, it was one-way traffic for Los Teros.

First back rower Manuel Diana crashed over to level the scores once more – Berchesi’s conversion edged them back in front – while a scintillating piece of backline distribution and offloading saw midfielder Juan Manuel Cat go over unopposed to stretch Uruguay’s lead out to nine points.


That lead was extended to 12 points at half-time following a Bechesi penalty, but a hard-earned try to Api Ratuniyarawa brought the score back to 24-17.

It could have been 24-22, but a missed conversion and penalty by Matavesi proved to be costly, particularly when Berchesi added another three pointer with about 20 minutes to play.

Fiji’s replacement halfback Nikola Matawalu provided some much-needed impetus, and was rewarded with a try in the 67th minute, but this time it was Ben Volavola, who came on for fullback Alivereti Veitokani, who was wayward from the boot.


Berchesi made him pay with a penalty goal with five minutes to play to push the score out to 30-22, meaning Fiji needed to score twice in quick succession to avoid an embarrassing defeat.

They nabbed one of those two scores through Matawalu, who managed to pick up a brace from the bench and help outscore Uruguay five to three on the try count.

However, it came far too late in the 82nd minute, and Volvavola’s missed conversion summarised Fiji’s capitulation, which should all but end their hopes of an eagerly-anticipated quarter-final berth.

This is undoubtedly Uruguay’s biggest result in their history, and will give them ample amounts of confidence going into their next fixture against Georgia in Kumagaya in four days’ time.

Should they attain victory in that match – which is by no means a stretch following this stunning upset – they will be well-placed to secure automatic qualification to the 2023 World Cup in France, an achievement they have never accomplished.

As for Fiji, this loss leaves their World Cup aspirations in tatters.

Many predicted a possible appearance in the last eight given the breadth of talent throughout their squad, but following a raft of changes from their defeat to the Wallabies and without the likes of star men such as Waisea Nayacalevu and Josua Tuisova, they seem destined to stay locked in their pool.

The best they can hope for is automatic qualification for France 2023, but that requires a win against Six Nations giants Wales, and based off this performance, that seems a far-fetched concept.

John McKee’s side now have an eight-day break before they take on Georgia in Osaka, where they will hope to pick themselves up and regain some credibility before their meeting with Wales on October 9.

Uruguay 30 (Tries to Santiago Arta, Manuel Diana, Juan Manuel Cat; 3 conversions and 3 penalties to Felipe Berchesi)

Fiji 27 (Tries to Nikola Matawalu (2), Mesu Dolokoto, Eroi Mawi, Api Ratuniyarawa; conversion to Josh Matavesi)

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