DIPLOMATS from several Latin American countries were in attendance as Chile defeated El Salvador 58-20 in the first full rugby league game between Latino sides.
Held at Henson Park, home of one of the oldest clubs in rugby league – the Newtown Jets – the day featured dancers from Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Latino cuisine and a colourful array of flags waved proudly from the sidelines.
The main game saw Chile lift the GYG Shield of Defiance, after a tight opening stanza had scores level 6-all until the 18th minute.
Chilean Consul General to Australia Humberto Molina Reyes was among those who visited the Chilean team in the changing rooms before the game.
El Salvadoran Ambassador Luis Jose Menendez Castro did likewise for their opponents, while early games were attended by Uruguayan consular staff and members of the Australian Ecuadorian Cultural Association.
Chile’s big win was earnt through superior fitness and ball movement, scoring 40 consecutive points in the middle period of the game.
The Caciques damaging forwards also left the Salvadorans short-changed on the bench, as Cesar Cordova (shoulder) and JC Mendez (concussion) spent large periods of the game sidelined.
In their first hit-out over 80 minutes at an international level, El Salvador showed heart to stage a late fightback, scoring three out of four tries at one stage and holding Chile scoreless for 21 minutes.
After featuring before the match in an emotive video about his upbringing in El Salvador, veteran centre Paco Godinez scored the final try of the day for El Trueno Azul.
Indeed, the match was notable for the number of players from both sides who arrived in Australia as refugees, or as first descendants of refugees.
Fullback James Horvat – the son of a Chilean mother and Croatian father – was among the best on ground, while Jaden Laing (mother Chilean, father Fijian-Samoan) was his usual powerful self.
But perhaps the difference on the day was the direction of Chilean five-eighth Brad Millar, who constantly straightened the point of attack, threw in a mix of reverse passes and found gaps both inside and outside.
Big prop Eduardo Wegener was narrowly denied a hat-trick with his powerful runs close to the line, held up for what would have been a third try.
Teen forward Mana Castillo also had a nice story to tell, barging over to score after receiving a late exemption from a university exam.
El Salvador’s best were the nippy trio of Miguel Gonzalez, Alvaro Alarcon and Miguel Alarcon, all of whom provided moments of magic during the game.
Prior to the staging of the GYG Shield of Defiance, Ecuador lifted the GYG Shield of the North against Colombia (seven-a-side), and Uruguay raised the GYG Shield of the South versus Peru (nine-a-side).
Both shields were contested over a two-game series that provided a string of tight results.
Indeed, Uruguay’s 12-10 win over Peru in Game One of their series was decided by a Matty Booth try on the final play of the game.
Meanwhile, Ecuador’s 24-18 win over Colombia on two-game aggregate was only achieved after Colombian speedster Alejandro Restrepo was tackled into touch five metres before the tryline.
Rangy Colombian forward Miguel Henao Velez scored arguably the try of the day, finishing off an exhausting length-of-the-field movement started by Norman Lizano.
Both Uruguay and Ecuador unveiled an impressive amount of new players, which augers well for both nations going forward.
Following the game the Chilean players attended a fund-raiser for the Chilean community, where a donated jersey raised $240 and players were asked for photographs and autographs
GYG SHIELD OF DEFIANCE
CHILE 58 (Eduardo Wegener 2, James Horvat, Brad Millar, Mana Castillo, Ben Fisher, Brandon Tobar, Nick Doberer, Chris Brantes, Sergio Montenegro, Trent Millar tries; James Horvat 5, Eduardo Wegener, Ben Fisher goals) d EL SALVADOR 20 (Miguel Alarcon, Alvaro Alarcon, Miguel Gonzalez; Paco Godinez tries; Miguel Gonzalez 2 goals) at Henson Park, Marrickville, Sydney. Referee: Nathan Loveday. Touch Judges: Tom Cambourn, Dean Tyler. Crowd: 1500-plus.
Chile: James Horvat, Chris Brantes, Sebastian De La Paz, Brandon Tobar, Jon Munoz, Brad Millar, Trent Millar, Eduardo Wegener, Israel Perez, Nicholas Doberer, Josh Munoz, Jonathan Espinoza, Jaden Laing. Interchange: Mana Castillo, Ben Fisher, Jayden Yasar, Sergio Montenegro.
El Salvador: Javier Alarcon, Michael Zamora-Rivera, Miguel Alarcon, Frank ‘Paco’ Godinez, Joaquin Mendoza, Alvaro Alarcon, Fredy Arteaga-Figueroa, JC Mendez, Miguel Gonzalez, Josh Guzman, Junior Alarcon, Nelson Melgar, Mayer Flamenco. Interchange: Cesar Cordova, Eric Orellana, Raphael Mendoza, Francois Sansour.
GYG SHIELD OF THE NORTH (Sevens)
Game 1: ECUADOR 16 (Sebastian Jacome 2, Jay Palese 2 tries) d COLOMBIA 4 (Norman Lizano try).
Game 2: COLOMBIA 14 (Miguel Henao Velez, Sebastian Maya Jimenez, Norman Lizano tries; Diego Vejerano goal) d ECUADOR 8 (Edgar Santamaria; Johnny Liszka tries).
Aggregate: ECUADOR 24 d COLOMBIA 18.
Ecuador: Sebastian Jacome, Dahcell Ramos, Edgar Santamaria, Geovanny Sanchez, Jay Palese, Jeff Lopez, Rodney Garcia, William Gomez, Scott Correa, John Vasco, Johnny Pandilla, Johnny Liszka.
Colombia: Diego Santiago Gil Vejerano, Alejandro Restrepo, Andres Jimenez, Sebastian Maya Jimenez, Juan David Espinal Cano, Daniel Rickard, Miguel Henao Velez, Steven Azzopardi (Nicaragua – Guest), Norman Lizano (Nicaragua – Guest).
GYG SHIELD OF THE SOUTH (Nines)
Game 1: URUGUAY 12 (Kevin Clarke, Javier Britos, Matty Booth tries) d PERU 10 (Jacob Parker 2 tries; Jacob Parker goal).
Game 2: URUGUAY 20 (Jesse Graham 2, Gabriel Papa, Matty Booth tries; Angel Morrison 2 goals) d PERU 12 (Aaron Perez, Juan Carlos Carrion, Jye Sommers tries).
Aggregate: URUGUAY 32 d PERU 24.
Uruguay: Kevin Clarke, Kris Vieira, Michael Bolz, Jesse Graham, Gabriel Papa, Federico Gonzalez, Michael Pizzorno, Nicholas Cama, Pablo Florentin, Javier Britos, Eric Rendo, Steven Clarke, Angel Morrison, Fernando Gonzalez, Matty Booth, Adrian Gela, Roberto Negro.
Peru: Corey Daniela, Paul Altimmirano, Kurtis Labour, Jonathan Julca, Jacob Parker, Jye Sommers, Juan Carlos Carrion, Aaron Perez, Mitchell Perez, Luis Guillermo Fhon.
The efforts of the 100% volunteer-run Latin Heat Rugby League are supported by Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, S.H.I.E.L.D Security, Tattoo Tears, OneBigSwitch.com.au, Jani-King Cleaning, SeriousAboutRL.com, Rugby League Team Manager 2015 computer game, Retrocom Digital TV Specialists, Colombianos en Brisbane, Link Australia Student Services, Raw Juicery, SEMCAR Mechanics, Lichtnauer and Associates Accountants, Cast Graphics, Cabramatta Ink, Majestic Property Maintenance, musician Royal El Latino and Darkside Studio Photography.
Official charities supported are Amnesty International, Live To Give Projects and Red Cross Ecuador Earthquake Appeal.