Chile qualified for its first Rugby World Cup after beating the United States 31-29 with a stunning comeback in Colorado on Saturday.
The Chileans didn’t lead in the two-match Americas qualifying playoff until there were five minutes left. Even then, they received a late scare when referee Luke Pearce awarded the U.S. a kickable penalty but reversed his decision due to a neck roll.
”It really means so much (to qualify),” Chile captain Martin Sigren said. ”The sacrifices that this team has done, there were times when it seemed like it was uphill.
”I want to thank all the family who came here, they were the ones who kept us pushing.”
Chile lost the first leg last week in rainy Santiago, 22-21, and had to win by two points in the U.S. to qualify at a sold-out Infinity Park.
But within 30 minutes, the Condors were down 19-0. A yellow card to U.S. lock Nick Civetta offered some hope and Chile took it.
Despite their scrum being dominated throughout the playoff, Chile won a penalty against the head and Santiago Videla converted the tough kick with five minutes to go.
”It’s heartbreaking,” U.S. captain AJ MacGinty said. ”I feel we worked hard for our scores, especially in first half. We really had our foot on their throat. I saw them under their posts, and they had a lost look in their eyes, but they battled back and fair play to them.”
Before this series, Chile had lost its previous four matches to the U.S. by an average of 50 points.
Chile goes to the Rugby World Cup in France next year in Pool D with England, Argentina, Japan and Samoa. The Condors open against Japan in Toulouse on Sept. 10, 2023.
Chile also beat Canada in the qualifiers. The team is mostly made up of players from Selknam club, which was runner-up in the Superliga Americana.
The United States has played at every World Cup since 1999 and has one last chance to qualify at the repechage tournament in November in Dubai against Portugal, Kenya and Hong Kong. Only the winner advances.
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