today is Mar 23, 2023

The Chile Condors beat the USA Eagles 31-29 on Saturday at Infinity Park in Glendale, CO, in a game that had important repercussion for both sides.

This game was the second in a 2-match series between them, with the winner -- determined by total point differential -- qualifying for the upcoming Rugby World Cup. USA beat Chile in their first encounter last week by 1 point, and therefore had to tie or win this game to qualify. In fact, the USA has won all of the two sides' last 5 matches, going back to 2016.


With the win on Saturday Chile, which has never before participated in the Rugby World Cup, made history by earning the final slot in Pool D of the 2023 Rugby World Cup. This pool also includes England, Japan, Argentina, and Samoa.

Game Recap

1st half 

The first few minutes saw both sides kicking to test out each other's defenses. Then the US backline took control, working the ball toward the try line phase by phase until Chile was called for a penalty. The Eagles kicked to touch, and on the ensuing lineout the maul was making progress until the USA was called for a penalty near the try line. A scrum was formed, and when a penalty was again called on the USA, Chile cleared the ball downfield to get out of danger.

At 9',the USA had a lineout near Chile's 10-meter line. A maul was formed. Scrum half Ruben DeHaas pulled the ball out and started sprinting left to the short side, before dishing it off to Wing Martin Iosefo coming at full speed down the touchline. Iosefo himself returned the favor by chipping the ball up over defenders to target DeHaas who had continued his run. DeHaas was unable to secure the ball as it bounced up in front of him, but still managed to pass it backward to Iosefo who was still running up behind him. Iosefo touched the ball down for a score to a delighted crowd. After Fly Half AJ McGinty made the conversion, the score stood 7-0 USA.

The following chapter saw both teams kicking the ball deep and perhaps misjudging how high the ball would travel in the high altitude -- as the ball would frequently end up rolling through the back of try zone for a restart

At 21', the US backs methodically advanced their way forward, finding space left and right with quick crashes and quick ball recycling. At one point the ball passed through US hands all the way from the right try line to the left try line with only a small interruption.  Iosefo was there to receive the ball, scurried down the line and made an incredible dive to put the ball down in the corner for his second try of the game. After the McGinty conversion, the score stood 14-0 USA.

At 26', the Condors drew a penalty for not rolling away after a tackle. Play continued for a spell but then the ball was brought back, where the Eagles opted for a scrum at around the 5 meter line. This scrum started a series of pick-and-go plays from the USA forwards, which ended in an apparent try by the USA. But upon review, the referee determined that he had obstructed the Chilean defender from making contact with the US attacker, so instead of a try, the USA was awarded at try at the  5 meter line. 

This time the Eagles showed a bit of razzle dazzle. With the Eagles pack pushing back the Condors pack step by step, USA No 8 Cam Dolan hiked the ball through his legs to DeHaas, who flicked it to McGinty, who dummied left before tucking the ball in and darting in for the try. McGinty missed the conversion and the game stood 19-0 USA after 30 minutes. This was to prove the high-watermark of the game for the  USA team. Indeed, it felt like the USA had enjoyed possession for most of the game, and had hardly let Chile get any of their own action.

At 32', USA lock Nick Civetta was given a yellow card and a trip to the sin bin for foul play for having made contact with a Chilean player's head while clearing him out of a ruck. This could have been a red card. except for the mitigating factor that he made contact with the body first.

Chile immediately took advantage of the USA playing with a man down. From the penalty, Chile kicked to touch, and on the ensuing lineout and maul, Scrum half Marcel Torrealba  took the ball and wove his way through the USA defense, finally splitting two defenders to run through the gap and put Chile on the scoreboard. After the conversion by Fullback Santiago Videla, the score stood 19-7 USA. 

Having been largely dormant in the game until this first try, Chile's offense was suddenly coming to life. In the final minute of the first half, prop Salvador Lues picked up a loose ball and bulldozed his was through a series of USA defenders, opening up the space and creating the momentum that saw Center Matias Garafulic  running into the try zone in the right corner several hands later. After the conversion by Davila, the score stood at 19-14 USA as the first half ended.


(photo credit: USA Rugby)



2nd Half

Soon after the second half started, a frustrated USA Hooker Joe Taupete'e drew a penalty when he picked up a Chilean rival's loose shoe from the pitch and hurled it downfield with a vengeance. This gave Chile a penalty kick, but Videla missed the opportunity to add points for his team.

At 46', the USA had a lineout in the left corner.  After throwing the ball in, Taufetee's quickly joined at the back of the maul, where he took possession of the ball and waited patiently for his chance as the maul drifted right. A few seconds later he separated from the maul and sprinted left, swatting off three defending Chilean backs as he found the try zone.

After the McGinty conversion, the score stood 26-14 USA.

At the next kickoff, DeHass received the ball and kicked it back deep. Chilean Fly half Rodrigo Fernandez caught the ball and then repeated some of last week's magic, where he juked 7 US defenders on his way to a 65-meter try. In this game, he slipped off 3 attempted tackles and dished it off to Center Pablo Casas who powered his way through two more attempted tackles to put the ball down in the left corner. Videla made the conversion and suddenly had closed the gap to 5 points. 26-21 USA.

At 52', Eagles #8 Can Dolan stole a Chilean lineout on Chile's 5 meter line. With the Eagles attacking ferociously, and the Condors defending with equal determination, finally the ball swing out wide left for Iosefo to score down in the corner. Or so it appeared. Upon review,  it was determined that Iosefo had been driven out of bounds before being able to touch the ball down, and the try was not awarded.

At 57', Chile drew a penalty for lifting a leg, at around their 22 meter line.  The Eagles, probably in acknowledgement of growing fatigue, opted for the penalty kick, which McGinty successfully struck.  USA 29-21.

At 62', after a long series of continuous play and attacking runs, Chilean prop  Matias Dittus smashed through the USA goal-line stance to score a try. With Videla converting, it was suddenly a one-point game. 29-28 USA.

At 74', the two teams went to a scrum, and the Chile front row broke through the USA front row, despite the USA having been dominant in the scrum for this whole game up to this point. The USA drew a penalty and Chile had the opportunity to try for a penalty kick. Videla slotted the ball it, making the score Chile 31, USA 29. Chile was now up by two points for their first lead in the game, with just a few minutes left.

The final minutes saw intense play from both sides as an energized and anxious USA fought to regain the lead inside the rapidly-expiring time.  

At 78' the referee gave a penalty to Chile for not rolling away from a tackle. A successful penalty kick by the USA at this point would have put the USA ahead, possibly for good, with 2 minutes left to go in the game. However, upon further review, the official determined that on the same play, a USA player had grabbed a Chilean player by the neck in attempting to clear his opponent off the ruck -- and the foul play penalty trumps the technical penalty. The official reversed his earlier decision and awarded the penalty to Chile, which allowed them to retain possession as time expired until they kicked it away to begin their joyous celebration.

(photo credit: World Rugby)


After the game, Fly Half and Team Captain AJ MCGinty said: 

It was a tough old game. Towards the end we just made too many errors and shot ourselves in the foot. All credit to Chile but of course we’re disappointed with how the game went. Kinda being in command, feeling like you’re in full control, then letting it slip and then it’s like a dog fight.

We gave it everything. Of course it’s going to be hard for this to settle in. It’s just blank expressions in the change room. Everyone is hurt from it. I wasn’t there, but I know lads felt it when it happened in Uruguay.

What comes Next

With the 2-point win on Saturday, Chile overcomes the USA's previous 1-point edge, to win their overall series 52-51. And with the series win, Chile advances to 2023 RWC Pool D. 

With the series loss, the USA next gets to play in the repechage, a round of play in November which represents their final chance to make the 2023 Rugby World Cup.