(Buenos Aires, Argentina) 22 August 1998 -- Tries by Andre Blom and Mark Scharrenberg lifted the United States to a 21-16 victory over Uruguay and a berth in the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
Attacking a defensive-minded opponent from all corners but failing to put the game out of reach, the US wrapped up its 1998 season by becoming the first Eagle team to qualify for the World Cup through match play. The US played in the 1987 and 1991 World Cups by invitation, but missed out on the 1995 edition in South Africa.
Fullback Blom opened the scoring at 14 minutes, wriggling over the line after a storming lineout run by flanker Dave Hodges, carried on number eight Rob Lumkong. Uruguay's Federico Sciarra and the USA's Mark Williams then traded a series of penalty goals, the Tero Teros using a strong wind to good effect but the Eagles carrying the run of play.
The teams went to half with the US ahead 11-6.
Sciarra opened the second period with a third penalty goal to bring his side within two, but Scharrenberg's converted 52d-minute try again put the US comfortably in front. Called by Scharrenberg himself, the backline play was meant to hit out wide, but when the Jedforest center saw the defense overshift, he kept it for a 30-yard scoring run.
After missing a long-range penalty shot wide to the left, Williams hit a 35-yarder to make the score 21-9.
Uruguay then began to abandon its mauling game in favor of deep kicks, but wing Brian Hightower consistently beat his opposite in counterattack, keeping the ball in Uruguay's end. Still, the US failed to take advantage of several more opportunities, and Uruguay's Diego Ormaechea scored a late try to narrow the final margin.
"I told the boys it was a match they never trailed, that they earned their victory, and that America is proud of them," US coach Jack Clark said after the match.
The win sends the team to Ireland for pool play in next year's world championship. Ireland, the champion of the Pacific zone (likely to be Australia), and an undetermined European team will fill out the group.
In today's other qualifying match, Argentina routed Canada 54-21, outscoring the Canadians five tries to one. Argentina wins the Americas zone and will go to Wales, while Canada finishes second and heads to France. The World Cup opens in October 1999.
Final: United States 21 Uruguay 16 (halftime United States 11-6)
Uruguay: Tries: Diego Ormaechea
Conversions: Federico Sciarra
Penalty goals: Federico Sciarra (3)
United States: Tries: Andre Blom, Mark Scharrenberg
Conversions: Mark Williams
Penalty goals: Mark Williams (3)
Referee: Carl Spannenberg (South Africa)
United States: Andre Blom; Vaea Anitoni, Juan Grobler, Mark Scharrenberg (Tom Takau), Brian Hightower; Mark Williams, Kevin Dalzell; John McBride (Ray Lehner), Tom Billups, George Sucher, Luke Gross, Bob LeClerc (Jason Walker), Dave Hodges, Fifita Mounga, Rob Lumkong.