DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Portugal grabbed the last qualifying spot for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in spectacular fashion.
Samuel Marques’ long-range penalty kick after the final buzzer gave Portugal a 16-16 tie with the United States on Friday in Dubai and 20th and final place in the standings.
The Wolves have reached their second Rugby World Cup. They return to France, where they made their tournament debut in 2007. They open against Wales in Nice on September 16. Australia, Fiji and Georgia are also in Pool C.
“Just unbelievable,” said Portugal captain Tomas Appleton. “We have been missing (from the World Cup) for quite some time. We need a new generation to inspire children.”
The United States has missed the Rugby World Cup for the second time. The other was the 1995 tournament in South Africa.
Both teams beat Hong Kong and Kenya in the final round-robin tournament to set up their decider. But Portugal had a better point differential of over 17 and could afford to draw with the USA to advance.
Wolves scored their lone try through winger Raffaele Storti while his opposite Nate Augsperger was in the sin-bin, and led 10-9 at half time at The Sevens Stadium.
Hooker Kapeli Pifeleti regained the Eagles lead with a 60th minute try, converted by AJ MacGinty for 16-13.
The Eagles also had a one-man lead after Portugal mainstay Francisco Fernandes was dropped, but they played rugby for sure first.
A scrum penalty at their Test line gave Wolves one last chance with minutes remaining, and they pushed their way into the Eagles half. Flyhalf Jerónimo Portela’s dropped goal attempt from 40 meters hit the right post, but Portugal held the penalty lead.
Missing two penalty kicks early in the half, scrum half Marques hit his last shot in the 82nd minute for an equaliser.
“Seconds away for us,” MacGinty lamented. “We did the best we could.”
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