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LYON, France (AP) — Uruguay capitalized on three yellow cards to Namibia by overcoming a terrible start and winning their absorbing Rugby World Cup pool match 36-26 on Wednesday.
Los Teros recorded only a fourth ever win at a Rugby World Cup while extending Namibia's tournament-record losing run to 26 matches since 1999.
The Namibians looked like they would defy the odds — depleted team, fourth and final game in 18 days - thanks to a stunning 14-0 start in the first 11 minutes.
But the yellow cards in the second half helped Uruguay to wipe out a 20-12 halftime deficit and take the lead for the first time in the 54th minute and hold on.
“We had to win,” Uruguay captain Andres Vilaseca said. "Uruguay only had three wins in history — today we got the fourth.
“The whole union needed the win. We play for our country and for the region. We are growing at such a fast speed with Chile and Argentina. We have been working very hard since the 2015 World Cup. I am so happy for the group.”
One of Namibia's yellows, to replacement prop Des Sethie, was upgraded to red. But the game finished 14 on 14 after Uruguay received a late yellow card.
Namibia gave away 16 penalties, six in the scrum alone which caused one yellow card, while the other two yellows were for dangerous upright tackles.
“These are things that cost you in test rugby,” Namibia coach Allister Coetzee said. “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.”
Uruguay was the fresher team — a third game in a comfortable 14 days — but it was stunned from the kickoff. Namibia scored after 59 seconds when Santiago Arata's errant pass was intercepted by Gerswin Mouton, who sprinted 60 meters unchallenged to dive between the posts.
Namibia pulled further away in the 11th when it churned through the phases and Richard Hardwick put wing JC Greyling away down the left flank for an easy finish in the corner. Tiaan Swanepoel converted from the sideline on a perfect six-for-six day off the tee.
Uruguay recovered in the 19th after battering the line and flyhalf Felipe Etcheverry offloading to fullback Baltazar Amaya to barge over.
A Swanepoel penalty made it 17-5 then Uruguay received a kickable penalty but Etcheverry set up a corner lineout which Los Teros mauled. Backs Vilaseca and Nicolas Freitas joined in to drive hooker German Kessler over.
Etcheverry converted from the touchline but Swanepoel added another penalty shortly before halftime, and another at the start of the second period for 23-12.
Namibia was 33 minutes from history when it all started fall apart. Tighthead prop Johan Coetzee was sin-binned in the 48th for collapsing a scrum for a third time in the game. Uruguay exploited the man advantage to pour on 14 points.
Namibia's seven-man scrum held but Amaya grabbed his second try when he rounded Greyling and dived over scrumhalf Damian Stevens to plant the ball in the right corner.
Five minutes later, Uruguay took the lead for the first time in the match in spectacular fashion. Scrumhalf Arata picked up loose ball and stepped two defenders on a weaving run to the posts for a stunning solo try.
After 55 minutes, Uruguay led by three at 26-23.
Coetzee returned to the field but matters got worse for Namibia when captain Tjiuee Uanivi was yellow-carded for a dangerous upright tackle and, moments later, teammate Sethie followed him to the sin-bin after catching Bautista Basso in the face with his forearm.
Sethie’s card was upgraded to red, the second red for Namibia in this tournament.
A crossfield kick by Felipe Berchesi found Basso for a simple finish but Swanepoel's fourth penalty lifted Namibia within seven points for a grandstand finish.
It evaporated when Berchesi slotted a penalty to deny Namibia a losing bonus point.
Uruguay replacement flanker Eric Dosantos became the fourth player yellow-carded in the match for another upright tackle on Adriaan Booysen.
Both teams finished with the most points they have scored in a Rugby World Cup match. Namibia goes home while Uruguay has one more pool game left against New Zealand next week.
AP Rugby World Cup: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby