|Fernández Lobbe lifts the Cup|
In four days time the rugby world will zone in on Dunedin as Argentina and England go head-to-head in the biggest match of the day and weekend. Seven days after being well beaten by England in Manchester, it was Los Pumas turn to play at home vs the same opposition. The match was played in the Northern Argentine city of Salta rather than a more likely venue such as the county´s capital, Buenos Aires.
The move proved to be a huge success as locals packed the stadium to give Los Pumas strong home support and remind England of the Argentine factor of having a vocal crowd. The crowd certainly played their part in the match and were a reminder of what Argentina has to offer as a potencial host nation for Rugby World Cup 2023. Despite the match being played in one of Argentina´s smaller stadiums, the atmospehere was like that of a larger venue as the 20,000-strong crowd helped amke it Los Pumas´day.
Unlike the first match at Old Trafford in Manchester Juan Martín Hernández had playing options outside him with the young Santiago Fernandez replacing Miguel Avramovic to form a combination with Gonzalo Tiesi in the midfield. Together with Horacio Agulla from fullback, the Argentine backs were able to threaten England and the team appeared vastly different to that from the first match. This was the basis of Argentina´s victory as Hernández, pulling the strings, at flyhalf was able to guide the young backline. Argentina also did better up front thanks to the return of hooker Mario Ledesma and secondrower, Rimas Alvarez who would be laying for Argentina for the final time in a test match. Marcos Ayerza also started, but at tighthead prop in place of Juan Pablo Orlandi who had been unable to live up to the reputation of a Pumas scrum at Manchester. England selected Harlequins backrower, Chris Robshaw for his first test while otherwise keeping the successful team from Old Trafford together.
Like the previous week, Argentina scored first but this time it was through a try to Juan Leguizamón who burst through the deence after Argentina turned offer and English lineout on the 5 metre line shortly after kick-off. England responded with a penalty goal to Andy Goode shortly thereafter but with Hernández slotting three Argentina went into the interval leading 14-3. Hernández and Agulla combined two minutes after the interval to break the English backline and send Gonzalo Camacho in for a try in the corner. Hernández´s conversion was on target and Los Pumas were 18 points ahead. The South Americans took their foot off the gas and England fought back with Goode kicking four penalties to cut the lead to 6 points with eleven minutes remaining. Hernández responded with a dropgoal in to put Argentina out of range with the clock counting down before English winger, Matt Banahan, scored for England with two minutes left on the clock. England gave Argentina a late scare but in the ends Los Pumas were 24-22 winners in Salta.
The two sides faced on one more occasion between the Rugby World Cup´s of 2007 and 2011, this time at the home of English rugby, Twickenham. Both teams made a number of changes for the november test with England having its Lions players avaliable and Argentina losing key playermakers to injury. The match, nevertheless, was very much a competitive affair. Highlights will be posted in 24 hours time.
15 Horacio Agulla (Brive, France)
14 Francisco Leonelli (Saracens, England)
13 Gonzalo Tiesi (Harlequins, England)
12 Santiago Fernández (Hindu)
11 Gonzalo Camacho (Buenos Aires CRC)
10 Juan Martín Hernández (Stade Francais, France)
9 Alfredo Lalanne (London Irish, England)
8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe captain (Sale Sharks, England)
7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón (Stade Français, France)
6 Genaro Fessia (Cordoba Athletic)
5 Patricio Albacete (Toulouse, France)
4 Rimas Alvarez (Perpignan, France)
3 Marcos Ayerza (Leicester Tigers, England)
2 Mario Ledesma (Clermont, France)
1 Rodrigo Roncero (Stade Francais),
16 Alberto Vernet Basualdo (Toulouse, France), 17 Juan Pablo Orlandi (Rovigo, Italy), 18 Manuel Carizza (Biarritz, France), 19 Esteban Lozada (Toulon, France), 20 Nicolás Vergallo (Dax, France), 21 Miguel Avramovic (Montauban, France), 22 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino (Pucará)
15 Delon Armitage (London Irish)
14 Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks)
13 Dan Hipkiss (Leicester Tigers)
12 Tom May (Newcastle Falcons)
11 Matt Banahan (Bath Rugby)
10 Andy Goode (CA Brive, France)
9 Danny Care (Harlequins)
8 Nick Easter (Harlequins)
7 Steffon Armitage (London Irish)
6 Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
5 Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers)
4 Steve Borthwick captain (Saracens)
3 Julian White (Leicester Tigers)
2 Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
16 George Chuter (Leicester Tigers), 17 David Wilson (Newcastle Falcons), 18 Ben Kay (Leicester Tigers), 19 James Haskell (London Wasps), 20 Paul Hodgson (London Irish), 21 Sam Vesty (Leicester Tigers), 22 Mathew Tait (Sale Sharks)