Photo: Sergio Montenegro - Darkside Studio
A LEGAL strip across the line with three seconds to spare has won Chile a thrilling final in the inaugural GYG Latino Rugby League Sevens.
At the culmination of the first all-Latin American tournament for the sport, Chile triumphed 14-10 against a gallant injury-struck Peru.
In scenes not too far removed from the NRL grand final, Luis Guillermo Fhon broke the Chilean defence on the last play of the game, skirting the righthand sideline and diving across the tryline.
But the Peruvian warrior – who played on through a fractured collarbone – was hit by a flood of defenders just as was about to hit the ground, with the ball reefed free in desperation.
It was a fitting end to a tournament that would have surprised many with its intensity and moments of sublime skill.
Chile for all money looked like it would canter away in the final, having slickly dispatched El Salvador and Uruguay in the tougher of the two pools.
By contrast, Peru was down to its last seven players after a rash of injuries in an unconvincing qualifying game, won 12-4 against inexperienced Colombia.
Yet there are few matches for grit and experience, both of which the Peruvians brought into the final.
After Chile opened the scoring via teen speedster Sebastian Delapaz, Peru responded by a converted try to Corey Daniela to lead 6-4.
Daniela was set up for his try via the vison of team veteran Jye Sommers, a descendant of the Ortega family of Callao and one of the most influential players in the tournament.
His all-round skill set was matched however by Chilean up-and-comer James Horvat, named ‘Mejor Jugador’ (best player) of the entire tournament.
The 19-year-old who plays Sydney Shield for the Mounties club scored a try in the final and was involved in two big cover tackles which changed the course of the game.
In great signs for the future of Latin American Rugby League, schoolboy Mana Castillo also had a barnstorming final, making two big rampages and scoring the deciding try in a week where he also undertook important school exams.
Castillo’s four-pointer broke a 10-all deadlock with four minutes left on the clock.
That meant a tense countdown, where Peru threw everything at the Caciques to try and wrestle back the result.
Nervous Chile spilled possession twice and accidentally kicked the ball dead cleaning up a loose ball on their last three possessions.
That engineered good field position for the Emperadores, who through the trickery of playmakers Sommers and Jacob Parker, put Guillermo Fhon into space for the ultimate play.
Had the clock had more time to run it would have been interesting viewing, as the strip across the line meant Chile would have restarted play from their tryline with a dropkick.
The final result was justice however, with Chile having all the elements of a champion team.
Many expected their toughest fixture for the day would be El Salvador, but the Caciques ran away with the opening game of the tournament 34-20 after a late flurry of tries.
Salvadoran brothers Alvaro and Michael Alarcon were great contributors for their side, catching eyes alongside other newcomers like Uruguay’s Andres Rossini and Matt Cama, Ecuador’s Sebastian Jacome and Johnny Vasco, and Colombia’s Miguel Henao Velez and Diego Gil Vejerano.
In one of the upsets of the day, the team with the least rugby league experience – Ecuador – beat fierce rival Colombia 18-8, though Colombian rugby union convert Andres Marino had one reason to celebrate, scoring a try in his first league event.
Chile 34 (Sebastian Delapaz, Giorgio Blanco, James Horvat, Brad Millar, Jon Munoz, Jaden Laing tries; S Delapaz, G Blanco, J Horvat, E Wegener, Jon Munoz goals) d El Salvador 20 (Alvaro Alarcon, Fred Arteaga Figueroa, Michael Alarcon, Jonathan Godinez tries; A Alarcon, F Arteaga Figueroa goals). Halftime: Chile 18-12.
Chile 20 (Sebastian Delapaz, Esteban Bazaez, James Horvat, Jaden Laing tries; S Delapaz, J Horvat conv) d Uruguay 4 (Noah Cama try). Halftime: Chile 10-4.
El Salvador 22 (Alvaro Alarcon 3; Jonathan Godinez; Junior Alarcon tries; A Alarcon goal) d Uruguay 14 (Andres Rossini, Josh Gadea-Hellyer, Matt Cama tries; M Cama goal). Halftime: 10-all.
Peru 28 (Jacob Parker 2, James Goncalves2, Aaron Perez tries; J Goncalves 2, J Parker, A Perez goals) d Ecuador 0. Halftime: Peru 16-0.
Peru 12 (Jonathan Xavier, Aaron Perez, Jye Sommers tries) d Colombia 4 (David Goyeneche try). Halftime: Peru 8-0.
Ecuador 18 (Johnny Vasco 2, Sebastian Jacome, Roberto Tacuri tries; Rodney Garcia goal) d Colombia 8 (Sebastian Maya Jimenez, Andres Marino Silva tries). Halftime 4-all.
Latino Blue 12 (Javier Britos, Andres Rossini, Matt Cama tries) d Latino Yellow (Sebastian Maya Jimenez).
GYG LATINO SEVENS FINAL
Chile 14 (Sebastian Delapaz, James Horvat, Mana Castillo tries; James Horvat goal) d Peru 10 (Corey Daniela, Jacob Parker tries; Corey Daniela goal). Halftime: 10-all.
Mejor Jugador (Player of the tournament): James Horvat
First Tryscorer Each Team: Alvaro Alarcon (El Salvador), Sebastian Delapaz (Chile), Aaron Perez (Peru), Noah Cama (Uruguay), David Goyeneche (Colombia), Sebastian Jacome (Ecuador).
Try of the Day: Mana Castillo (Chile).
Tackle of the Day: Andres Sarmiento Vizcaya (Colombia).