Rosario full for Los Pumas v Wallabies
The match was not the greatest but the occassion was another to underline to credentials of Argentina to host Rugby World Cup 2023. Like in the Estadio Unico in La Plata seven days earlier the Gigante de Arroyito in Rosario was full. In contrast South Africa did not have a capacity crowd for its matches against the same teams over the past two Saturday´s. Argentina did well in attracting crowds for all three of its home matches. Mendoza was not full for Argentina v South Africa but it was large. When Los Pumas played in Cape Town Newlands was not full nor was Wellington or the Gold Coast as New Zealand and Australia hosted Argentina. As such of the four teams Argentina succeeded in marketing its matches more than the others. It also did well for its two home matches v France in June in Córdoba and Tucumán. The one exception being the low turnout for the match against Italy in San Juan. The choice of venues for 2013 will be interesting with Argentina to host England for a test series in June before hosting Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in The Rugby Championship.
Los Pumas tried hard last night in Rosario but did not have a strong performance. Australia was the superior side as the teams scored one try reach. Wet conditions did not help as both teams attended to play with width but knock-on´s were common throughout the contest. Both teams also gave away too many penalties with referee Craig Joubert leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many. There were countless social networks loaded with criticisms of the South African´s performance. The finger was pointed at him not allowing the game to flow at all. He certainly left his mark early with a yellow card to Patricio Albacete shortly after the end of the first quarter. Albacete was deemed to be playing the ball on the ground and Joubert ruled that Los Pumas had been doing the same thing all match. The loss of Albacete did not change the game at all. Both teams continued to be penalized. But neither the referee nor the conditions should be held accountable for this match. It was two teams fighting hard to get a win after not having achieved the desired results in earlier matches.
In terms of statistics the teams were quite evenly split. The top tackler was Juan Manuel Leguizamón who hade 13 tackles despite being replaced before the 50th minute. Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe made the most hit-up´s with ten and Martín Landajo´s two off-loads was also the highest. Kurtley Beale´s seven kicks was a larger number than that of Juan Martín Hernández while Digby Ioane made the most metres as he ran 93 with ball in hand. The key statistic went Australia´s way as Mike Harris kicked six penalty goals from seven attempts compared to Hernández and Marcelo Bosch who kicked four from six between them. It was the difference as Australia won 26-19. Both teams managed one try each with Digby Ioane scoring the first for Australia while Juan Imhoff scored in the final five minutes for Argentina.
Argentina lost on the scoreboard but succeeded in convincing viewers that it deserves to be in The Rugby Championship. This is no small achievement considering how long it took SANZAR to open its doors to the UAR. In future editions of the tournament it is fair to say that the South American´s will be winning more matches. The tournament had a number of lessons for Pumas coach Santiago Phelan. After the first three matches he actively changed Argentina´s game plan as Los Pumas went for a more attacking appraoch in a bid to score more tries. It worked. After having scored one try in Mendoza and Wellington Argentina scored two on the Gold Coast and two in La Plata. Argentina´s performance in La Plata was its biggest loss and easily the biggest by any in the competition. It was, nonetheless, the only match in which a team managed more than one try against the All Blacks.
Argentina could have won both matches against Australia and the home match against South Africa. Leaving its first tournament with one draw and five loses may be acceptable in some people´s eyes but Argentina can play better and get better results. The first step towards this is in November as Argentina will face Wales (November 10), France (November 17) and Ireland (November 24). Santiago Phelan now has the coming weeks to see just what is needed for Argentina to win. He made few changes to the starting lineup throughout The Rugby Championship and this will change for the November internationals. The luxury of playing in The Rugby Championship makes Rugby World Cup 2015 further away than it would otherwise be. As such Phelan does not need to look so far into the future as he did in 2008. Nonetheless, there are some changes needed to be implemented sooner rather than latter.