Saturday, September 10, 2011

Argentina blow lead in losing 13-9 to England

Rugby World Cup 2011 started on Friday with a dour match as New Zealand hosted Tonga in what was more about putting on a show than about rugby itself. The first three matches of the second day produced three wins for the favorites but all challenges proved to be competitive. The fourth match was a different affiar alltogether as Argentina and England produced a game resembling war as both sides fought it out to the death in a highly physical contest. Los Pumas dominated the first half and came close to scoring on three occassions. England held firm and attacked hard in the secondhalf and replacement scrumhalf, Ben Youngs was able to change the match as he went over for the games only try as England came back from a 9-3 deficit to win the match 13-9. Argentina went into the game as underdogs, due in large part to the injury forced absence of flyhalf Juan Martín Hernández. In place of the Racing Metro flyhalf, Argentina have been using centre Felipe Contepomi.

The new signing of Stade Français scored the games first points, though a penalty goal, but soon there after was forced from the field through injury which forced Biarritz centre, Marcelo Bosch to play at flyhalf for Los Pumas. He is naturally a flyhalg, but has been playing in the 13 shirt for Biarritz over the past year and has also played there for his country. In place of Contepomi, Bosch proved to be highly effective as he was able to break the English defence but it proved to not be enough as Argentina were unable to score a try on the day. Bosch entered in the 27th minute for Contepomi and shortly thereafter Argentina were in all sorts of trouble as English secondrower, Courtenay Lawes, put a late hit on Pumas centre, Gonzalo Tiesi which forced the South American from ther field. The result was that replacement winger, Juan Imhoff came on for Tiesi to play on the left wing with Horacio Agulla moving to fullback and Martín Rodríguez to centre. It meant that Agulla was the only back from France 2007.

Despite missing the stars from 2007, Argentina were in command of the match until late in the game. It took the substitution at scrumhalf and in the frontrow to bring England the win. England may have been leading earlier had Johnny Wilkinson been himself. The all-time leading Rugby World Cup points scorer missed five penalties. Argentina´s injuries meant things were even worse, however, as Los Pumas missed six shots at goal. Argentina managed three in the first half compared to England´s one which meant Argentina led 9-3. England, looking to play differently in the secondhalf, were lucky not to fall further behind as fullback Martín Rodríguez broke the defensive line but was penalized for holding-on in the tackle. Soon thereafter, Marcelo Bosch similarlly broke clear but was also hauled by good defence fom the English back-three. England had been able to desparately hold off some solid Pumas attacks and then made the contest their´s for the taking following brilliant vision from Youngs´ as he scored the games only try late in the second half. Argentina changed their appraoch but did not panic and they attacked from the deep with good runs from Bosch, Agulla and Imhoff. The latter broke down the left tough line before kicking through only to be tackled late by Manu Tuilagi. The referee thought it was a fair tackle and it proved to be Argentina´s final chance.

Despite losing, there are plenty of positives for Argentina. The team had played only 18 tests since France 2007 while others have played over twice as many. The best player on the field was probably loosehead prop, Rodrigo Roncero who got through a lot of work showed why he has been selected ahead of Marcos Ayerza. Juan Leguizamón and Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe were key players at the breakdown as they frustrated England thruoghout the match. Their backrow team mate, Julio Farias is an amateur player but also performed very well in the tackle and was able to steal English ball at the breakdown. Replacement hooker, Agustín Creevy came on to be a highly effective ballcarrier. The Pumas wingers were great and showed by Martín Bustos Moyano was not able to make the squad. Horacio Agulla, Gonzalo Camacho and Juan Imhoff were able to reguarly gain ground and should be able to finish off opportunities in the coming three matches.

Argentina face Romania in their second match in seven days time. It will be played in Invercargill where Romania played its first match in losing 34-24 to Scotland. The Eastern Europeans proved to be a tough opponent and it took two late tries for Scotland to win the match. Scotland will face Georgia on Wednesday while England´s second match will be vs Georgia on Sunday.

Pool C Table

Scotland 5
England 4
Argentina 1
Georgia 0
Romania 0

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