Forward power, clinical finishing and composure helped Uruguay to a first win at Rugby World Cup 2023 – but only after Namibia gave them a mighty scare.  

Chasing a first-ever World Cup win at their 26th attempt, the Welwitschias came out firing and, buoyed by a gift of a Gerswin Mouton try within the first minute, were quickly up 14-0 after fellow wing JC Greyling added a second.

Baltazar Amaya and German Hessler replied with tries for Uruguay but three penalties from fly-half Tiaan Swanepoel kept Namibia in front at 23-12 early in the second half.

Backed by a partisan crowd, Namibia looked favourites to end their unwanted record streak but everything changed in the 48th minute as Uruguay’s pack forced a series of scrum penalties on Namibia’s five-metre line which meant a yellow card was inevitable. In the 10 minutes prop Johan Coetzee was off the field, Los Teros scored 14 points. 

From there, Namibia’s discipline disappeared. A further yellow card for captain Tjiuee Uanivi was damaging enough but a yellow upgraded to red for replacement prop Desiderius Sethie spelled the end as further tries from Amaya, Santiago Arata and Bautista Basso sealed victory for Uruguay, who face New Zealand in their final pool game on 5 October as Namibia head for home. 

Santiago Arata, the Mastercard Player of the Match, said: “First victory for us (at Rugby World Cup 2023), I want to say thank you to all the Uruguayans, massive support. This victory is for them.”

Uruguay captain Andres Vilaseca added: “I am very proud. We had to win. I think the whole group deserve the victory and we have been working so hard. Uruguay only had three (Rugby World Cup) wins in history, today we got the fourth.”

Esteban Meneses, the Uruguay head coach, was delighted for his players and looking forward to tackling New Zealand, saying: “The players are incredible, I am very proud of them.

“All the players and staff want to play against them, it is a very good opportunity to play against New Zealand.”

Namibia captain Uanivi admitted ill-discipline was his side’s undoing, saying: “Our discipline let us down. To get two yellow cards and then a red makes it very hard. Our discipline at the end of the day cost us.

“We lost the game but I am very proud of the boys. I know they left it all out there. Apart from the discipline issue, I am super proud of them.”

Namibia head coach Allister Coetzee also blamed the red and yellow cards for the defeat. “Uruguay took control of the game but that is test-match rugby when you concede 12 penalties and three cards, it is very difficult,” he said. “That starts at set-piece and scrum time.

“These are things that cost you in test rugby. There is nothing you can do – you can’t hide about it if you are not up to it. But I must commend the team for playing until the end. Defensively, there were errors in technique in being too upright.

“It is quite difficult to swallow but in the end Uruguay deserved to win.” – WORLD RUGBY

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