Nations Cup Wrap

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Russia were the surprise package of the first round of the World Rugby Nations Cup 2017 with a last-gasp 39-38 win over Argentina XV in Uruguay.

Spain also defeated Namibia 15-13 and hosts Uruguay beat Emerging Italy 30-21.

The second round takes places on Wednesday when Namibia will meet Emerging Italy, Argentina XV tackle Spain and Uruguay face Russia in the only match to count towards the World Rugby Rankings.

Spain recorded a narrow 15-13 victory over Namibia in a tight match in the first of three matches all played at Estadio Charrua in Montevideo in Uruguay.

The first half was a cagey affair as Bradley Linklater and Theuns Kotze exchanged penalties.

But in the second half, the teams played a more attacking brand of rugby. Namibia scored the first try when Chrysander Botha collected Johan Deysel's expertly weighted grubber kick to dot down in the 49th minute.

Soon after, Spain replied when Lionel Tauli went over at the back of a well-worked driving maul. 

Kotze put Namibia back in the lead but Spain ensured their lead was short-lived when Tauli grabbed his brace. 

Linklater's conversion proved to be crucial as it separated the sides by two points.

“It was a game that opened and closed constantly. We managed to control our good moments in the second half. It is important to start this tournament with a win, more so looking at the rankings and beating a Rugby World Cup regular,” said Spain captain Jaime Nava.

The second game produced undoubtedly the shock of the day as Russia overcame a more favoured Argentina outfit 39-38.

It was a fast start to the game as Argentina, coached by Felipe Contepomi, raced into a 14-0 lead courtesy of tries from flank Francisco Gorrisen and Juan Cappielo.

Russia hit back instantly against the run of play. Denis Simplikevich stole the ball just metres out from his own try-line and ran coast to coast to dot down.

Russia raced into a 22-12 lead through scores from flanker Yuri Kushnarev and scrum-half Konstantin Uzunov before the break.

After the interval, Capiello grabbed his second with a quick tap penalty catching the Russians off-guard.

However, Simplikevich responded to notch up a brace of his own.

Santiago Medrano and Bruno Devoto scored within six minutes, putting Argentina XV in charge just before the hour mark and then prop Facundo Gigena dotted down to put his side seemingly in control at 38-29 with 10 minutes to play.

However, in a dramatic final twist Alexei Mikalsov and Dimitri Krotov conspired to send Argentina crashing to a historic defeat.

“We had to wait until the final kick of the game but we tried to play our structures and even if we gave away possession at times and they turned that into points, we showed character,” said a delighted Russia captain Vasily Artemyev.

Uruguay and Emerging Italy both scored three tries but it was the home team who prevailed with more accurate goal-kicking, prevaling 30-21 eventual winners.

Uruguay scrum-half Santiago Arata scored first with a sniping run from the ruck. Fly-half Germán Albanell added a conversion and a penalty.

Uruguay prop Matías Benítez was yellow-carded and Emerging Italy capitalised on their numerical advantage scoring through Filippo Buscema on the half hour mark. George Iacob added aa second just before the interval as the away side took a 14-10 lead into the break.

Uruguay centre Juan Manuel Cat then regained his side's lead shortly after the resumption of the second half.

Emerging Italy were guilty of indiscipline when David Fragnito was red-carded for kneeing an opponent and it was Uruguay who took advantage of having a man more this time extending their lead to 27-14 thanks to a try from Guillermo Lijtenstein.

The Italians attempted a comeback when number eight Renato Giammarolli scored a try to leave his team another converted try from victory, but Uruguay put the result beyond doubt with a penalty by full-back Rodrigo Silva five minutes from time.

“These are the games we want to play in order to test our strength. It is very good to start with a win, but now we have the key games with ranking points on offer which are very important for us,” said Los Teros captain Juan Manuel Gaminara.