Friday, April 26, 2013

Retro Friday - Wales score three illegal tries to defeat Argentina in 2009

Photo: Welsh Rugby Pics
Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga scored only legitimate try of the match in 2009
The November 2009 internationals were far from ideal for Argentina. An injury crisis had deprived Headcoach Santiago Phelan of a host of players including the country´s three leading flyhalves. With no Juan Martín Hernández, Felipe Contepomi or Marcelo Bosch Phelan named an amateur pairing with Santiago Fernández and Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga being called up from the Buenos Aires league (URBA) to start in all three of Argentina´s tests which also included tests against England and Scotland. But the flyhalf-inside centre positions were just the tip of the iceburg as also missing were wingers Gonzalo Camacho and Lucas González Amorosino, who had both impressed in debuting in June, backrower Juan Manuel Leguizamón and  fullback Ignacio Corleto. 

Injury ended the career of Corleto early which in 2009 saw Phelan move Horacio Agulla to fullback. He formed a back-three with Lucas Borges and Mauro Comuzzi with Gonzalo Tiesi being the only other back to have played at Rugby World Cup 2007. Of the starting backs in the match Agulla, Borges and Tiesi could be said to be the first choice Pumas but Agulla was, nonetheless, playing out of position. Agulla and Borges both played well to save tries in the tour opener against England but it would be the beginning fo the end for Borges who whose three tests in 2010 against Uruguay, Scotland and Ireland would be his last.

The forwards that took to the field to face Wales in 2009 were closer to full strength with Argentina´s frontrow of Rodrigo Roncero, Mario Ledesma and Martín Scelzo still in tact from the World Cup. Big names starting also included Patricio Albacete and the teams captain for the tour, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe. But they were joined by fringe players with Alejando Abadie and Tomás Leonardí starting in the backrow and Esteban Lozada playing secondrow. Lozada started ahead of Perpignan secondrower Rimas Alvarez Kairellis who had become a French champion earlier in the year as Perpignan won the Top 14 Final against Clermont Auvergne. Alvarez Kairellis subsequently retired from test rugby after the home win over England in June but continued playing for Perpignan. 

Argentina started the tour well as, despite the team being so far from full strength, it competed well against England in losing by seven points. Argentina had a late chance to draw the match and very nearly did so. One of the standout performers at Twickenham was Patricio Albacete who backed it up against Wales the following weekend. Albacete did all he could to fill in for the missing Leguizamón in winning multiple turnovers against Wales. Had there been a video referee, or possibly a different one other than Irishman George Clancy then Albacete´s performance would likely have been match winning. Such was the poor officiating that Wales scored 21 illegal points with television replays clearly showing that none of the tries were legitimate. As such the 33-16 win should have, in fact, been a Pumas victory. 

The first try came from Wales taking a quick penalty after the whistle had gone to start play. Stephen Jones ran in while the players backs were drawn and there was a Welsh trainor on the field. The second, which was the first of two scored by Shane Williams, came from a charge-down in which secondrower Luke Charteris was clearly offside. Rather than standing behind the back legs of the ruck he stood to the side and did so directly in front of the touch judge. While Williams did well to finish the try it was , nonetheless, illegal as was his second. Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe got a turnover and attmepted a chip ahead only to be taken out without the ball by Mathew Rees. The Welsh hooker not only took Fernández Lobbe to ground late but he did so without using his arms in the tackle. By using only his shoulder it was a yellow card offence but, instead, Clancy called play-on and Wales scored. 

There were also other errors which went against Argentina and the South Americans had reason to complain but, instead, the players and coaches kept quiet and there was never a media beat up in Argentina or abroad about the controversy. Conversely, there are still people to this day who complain about Wayne Barnes in the Rugby World Cup Semi Final between France and New Zealand and about Craig Joubert who refereed the same teams in the 2011 final. In addition to top players and officials from these leadig rugby nations having gone public there was also significant controversy regarding Australia´s win over South Africa at Rugby World Cup 2011. Unlike these three famous cases the question was over one or no tries while in 2009 Wales scored three after mistakes from the referee yet it the Argentine players, officials and supporters behaved in a mature manner as the focus instead went on facing Scotland the following weekend. Others could perhaps take notice of the humility surrounding the incident. 

2 comments:

  1. Just a very tiny thing to clarify. The first try was invalid because the kicking tee was already on the field, not because of the kicking coach on the pitch.

    Law states that the arrival of the kicking tee signals intention to kick at goal, and you can't change from this after the intention made.

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    I will also try and add a full match feature on the site in the near future. Thanks.

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