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Argentina, Fiji complete Rugby World Cup quarterfinals lineup; Portugal makes history

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Argentina and Fiji completed the quarterfinal lineup at the Rugby World Cup on Sunday. Argentina went through the front door, Fiji came through the back.

Argentina ended Japan’s involvement in the tournament with a 39-27 victory in Nantes, where winger Mateo Carreras scored a hat trick of tries for the Pumas in a breathless match featuring eight in total.

The Argentines finished runner-up in Pool D behind England and will meet Wales in Marseille on Saturday in the first quarterfinal.

Fiji secured its place in the last eight for the third time, after the inaugural edition in 1987 and then 2007, thanks to a losing bonus point after falling to Portugal 24-23 in Toulouse.

The Fijians jumped above Australia into second place in Pool C and set up a match against England in the quarterfinals on Sunday.

The Wallabies failed to advance from the pool stage for the first time, though they’d had a couple of weeks to digest that likelihood after losing back-to-back to Fiji and Wales.

In the other match, Tonga earned its first win by beating Romania 45-24 in Lille.

ARGENTINA 39, JAPAN 27

The Pumas missed out on the quarterfinals in 2019 but are back at that stage for the fifth time in the last seven World Cups. However, they look set to be without flanker Pablo Matera, who was helped off in the 23rd minute with a bad right hamstring injury.

Japan was seeking back-to-back quarterfinal appearances after doing so on home soil four years ago but it proved to be the final match under departing coach Jamie Joseph, whose seven years in charge ends after this World Cup.

The Brave Blossoms depart having produced one of the highlights of the tournament through lock Amato Fakatava, who sprinted down the left wing, collected his own kick forward and trundled over the line midway through the first half for the first of Japan’s three tries.

Yet it was Carreras — Argentina’s stocky and powerful left winger — who proved to be the match winner, finishing off a flowing team move for his first try in the 28th and adding two more after halftime.

His third try was the clincher and came just after Japan reduced the gap to 29-27 with 15 minutes left. Within three minutes, Carreras received the ball at almost a standing start, pushed away Japan center Ryoto Nakamura with a right-hand fend, then burst through the middle with stunning acceleration before finishing with a swan dive over the line.

PORTUGAL 24, FIJI 23

Portugal pulled off a stunner to beat Fiji with a try two minutes from the end and a match-winning conversion in the last seconds for a storming finish to the tournament’s pool stage.

Fiji was the last team to qualify for the quarterfinals with a losing bonus point, but the manner of progression was nowhere near what the Flying Fijians, or the rest of the rugby world, were expecting.

It was Portugal’s first ever Rugby World Cup win and came in the last game of Os Lobos’ — the Wolves’ — second World Cup appearance. Portugal had a golden chance at a breakthrough first win two weeks ago at the same stadium in Toulouse but missed a last-second kick in an 18-18 draw with Georgia.

Down 23-17 in the dying minutes, left wing Rodrigo Marta scored the 78th-minute try that turned the World Cup on its head just for a moment, even if the result had no bearing on the final eight teams left in the competition.

But tell the Portuguese that it didn’t meant anything. After flyhalf Jeronimo Portela hoofed the ball out to confirm the victory, Portugal’s players leaped into each other’s arms to celebrate their biggest result ever. Players streamed off the bench to join in.

TONGA 45, ROMANIA 24

Tonga leaves the Rugby World Cup with a win after overpowering Romania in their pool finale.

Both teams were drowned by Ireland, South Africa and Scotland in the deepest pool of the tournament, but against each other the ‘Ikale Tahi and Oaks found a contest in which they could express more of themselves and triggered an entertaining 10-try farewell.

Tonga blasted to 21-3 and Romania came back to close within four points twice. Tonga pulled away in the last quarter when its zippier backs added three more tries for seven in total.

The Tongans’ highest score and biggest margin in Rugby World Cup history ensured a win at a fifth consecutive tournament.

Source: The Associated Press

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