Portugal became the 20th team to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2023 as they secured a 16-16 draw in a nail-biting deciding match of the Final Qualification Tournament against USA.
Os Lobos only needed a draw at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai to advance to a second Rugby World Cup, thanks to their superior points difference, and Samuel Marques secured it with the last kick of the match.
It means Portugal will take their place in Pool C at RWC 2023, alongside Wales, Australia, Fiji and Georgia.
"It's hard to explain, it's one of the best feelings in the world," Portugal captain Tomás Appleton said. "For the rugby community this is amazing, we've been missing [from Rugby World Cup] for quite some time and we need a new generation to inspire the kids."
Earlier on Friday, Hong Kong mounted a second-half comeback to beat Kenya 22-18 and claim third place in the standings.
Portugal stun USA
USA had only failed to qualify for one previous Rugby World Cup, in South Africa in 1995, and they took the lead in Dubai as AJ MacGinty sent a third-minute penalty through the uprights.
They soon lost winger Nate Augsperger to the sin-bin, though, and Portugal responded to score the opening try of the match.
Winger Raffaele Storti took a pass from Nuno Sousa Guedes wide on the right and cut back inside to exploit the space created by Augsperger’s absence and sprint over the line. Marques added the conversion to give Os Lobos a four-point lead.
That is the way the score remained until Portugal centre José Lima was shown a yellow card in the 21st minute and MacGinty was successful with the resulting penalty.
Uncharacteristically, the Bristol Bears fly-half failed with an effort from the tee that would have given his side the lead on the half-hour mark.
MacGinty rediscovered his range on the stroke of half-time, however, responding to an earlier successful Marques penalty to make the score 10-9 in Os Lobos’ favour at the break.
Marques restored Portugal’s four-point lead 10 minutes into the second half, although it came in between two missed kicks that would have stretched their advantage further.
And Os Lobos were made to pay for that profligacy as Kapeli Pifeleti Jr. burrowed over from close range on the hour mark.
The try gave USA the lead for the first since the eighth minute and MacGinty extended it to 16-13 with a routine conversion. Os Lobos also lost prop Francisco Fernandes to the sin bin for an earlier infringement but did not concede in his time off the pitch.
Portugal only needed a draw to advance to RWC 2023, though, and Marques stepped up to deliver it with the final kick of the match.