Chile have qualified for Rugby World Cup for the first time in their history following a pulsating 52-51 aggregate victory against the USA in the Americas 2 play-off.
Los Condores looked to be heading for defeat as, having lost the first leg 22-21 in Santíago last weekend, they conceded three tries inside the opening half-hour in Colorado on Saturday to leave themselves 20 points behind in the tie.
When USA captain AJ MacGinty scored a 58th minute penalty they trailed by nine points on aggregate.
However, Santiago Videla’s late penalty, which gave them the lead in the tie for the first time, ensured they broke the hearts of home fans to claim a 31-29 victory on the night and a place at Rugby World Cup 2023.
Chile will line up in Pool D in France next year, alongside England, Japan, Argentina and Samoa.
“It really means so much… the sacrifices that this team has done, there were times when it seemed like it was uphill,” Chile captain Martín Sigren said.
“I want to thank all the family who came here, they were the ones who kept us pushing.”
Despite defeat, the USA’s RWC 2023 dream is not over. The Eagles will compete in the Final Qualification Tournament in November, against Portugal, Kenya and the loser of the Asia/Pacific play-off.
“It’s heart-breaking. I feel we worked hard for our scores, especially in first half,” MacGinty said.
“But credit to Chile, we really had our foot on their throat in the first half. I saw them under their posts, and they had a lost look in their eyes, but they battled back and fair play to them.”