Thursday, December 8, 2011

Los Pumas World Cup 2011 Review: Romania vs Argentina

Seven days after being defeated 14-9 by England, Argentina played its second match of Rugby World Cup 2011, vs Romania in Invercargill. Romania was also unsuccessful in its first match having gone down 34-24 against Scotland. Despute failing to pick up a bonus point for losing by less than seven points, the Eastern Europeans had pushed the Scot´s to the limit and were leading 24-21 with thirteen minutes left to play. A late rally from Scotland saw the Tier One side home. Four days after facing Romania, Scotland took on Georgia, also in Invercargill. The match was dominated by the conditions with strong rain and wind cutting down the chances of attacking rugby for both sides. Scotland were happy to take Georgia on in the forwards and the two sides ground each other down. Neither side was able to score a try with Scotland´s Dan Parks seeing his side home with a 15-6 victory.  

Los Pumas entered the match vs Romania carefully. A victory was an absolute must but the South Americans were under no illusions that it would be easy. Romania had done well against Scotland based largely on the teams resources in the forwards. The Scots were leading the pool after having won their first two matches. The loser of Argentina vs Romania would therefore have no chance whatsoever of making the Quarter Finals. Los Pumas coach, Santiago Phelan was forced into a number of changes, particularly in the backs. Captain Felipe Contepomi and inside centre Gonzalo Tiesi were both out of the match with the latter out of the entire tournament. Phelan took the opportunity to experiment by selecting an entirely different 10-12-13 combination. Santiago Fernández was selected at pivot with Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga playing outside him and Marcelo Bosch starting at outside centre. It was a new trio with two players swapping positions but it was, nevertheless, a reliable trio with all three players having completed solid seasons in France for their respective clubs (Montpellier, Stade Français and Biarritz). Bosch was starting at international level for the first time ever in the 13 shirt while Fernández and Rodríguiez Gurruchaga were re-forming the combination which had toured England, Wales and Scotland in Novmember 2009 when Argenitna had a massive injury crisis which had ruled out flyhalves Bosch, Contepomi and Juan Martín Hernández.  

Juan Leguizamón
With Rodríguez Gurruchaga playing 12, Phelan opted to play Lucas González Amorosino at fullback. It was another selection which showed the coaching will to test out combinations as despite having come through the Argentine system as a fullback / flyhalf, González Amorosino had only ever played for Los Pumas as a winger. He had been instrumentla in Argentina´s November 2010 victory over Italy as he created a try for Rodríguez Gurruchaga which proved to be the match winner. his selection underlined Phelan´s controversial decision of not selecting Montpellier´s Martín Bustos Moyano who had contributed immensely to the French clubs first ever appearance in a Top 14 Final. Phelan had left out the ace goalkicker in preference for a running fullback (González Amorosino) and a young and largely unknown winger, Juan Imhoff. Phelan named Imhoff, again, on the bench with Horacio Agulla and Gonzalo Camacho being retained in the starting XV as was scrumhalf, Nicolás Vergallo. No changes were made in the forwards freom the pack that faced England but with the loss of Contepomi, backrower Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe was named as captain.

Argentina´s superiority was never in question due to the status of the contest - Tier One vs Tier Two. The two sides had last meet eight years earlier in Sydney in a Pool match of Rugby World Cup 2003. On that occassion Los Pumas were easy winners as they notched up a 50-3 victory. No goals were set to win by an equal or better margin. Such was the seriousness of the occassion and the need of getting combinations right with Argentina set to face Scotland seven days latter in Wellington. The South Americans mission of creating opportunities proved successful and a number of players given the opportunity of starting took it with both hands. González Amorosino proved highly effectve attacking from the deep as he made multiple linebreaks and scored a try. The best two tries, with the Scottish clash in mind, were scored by forwards with Juan Manuel Leguizamón casting memories back to Jonah Lomu and Juan Figallo scoring from a pick-and-go. Imhoff also proved his selection to be on the money as he went over for a secondhalf try after replacing Camacho. It also caught the attention of Racing Metro who signed Imhoff shortly after the completion of the World Cup.

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