One year after completing a comprehensive win over Wales at the Millennium Stadium Los Pumas are on the verge of officially being the worst Argentine team of all time as Argentina have equalled the longest losing streak by virtue of being defeated 40-6 in Cardiff this afternoon.
A year on from a clinical second half performance at the same ground the Argentine rugby team produced a performance that continues the poor rugby that has been played since the first half against the All Blacks in La Plata. On that occassion Argentina was just two points behind the world champions nat the interval. New Zealand´s 11-9 half time lead featured one try, and a fortunate one, after Argentina had appeared to be playing the better rugby. When Marcelo Bosch landed a penalty early in the second half the South Americans were leading 12-11. But with Argentina´s playing on tired legs the All Blacks showed class to take over ad complete a 33-15 victory.
The three subsequent test matches have seen Argentina fail to start well as the poor performance in Rosario which saw the Wallabies crush Los Pumas was followed by a lackluster shoing last weekend against England and again today against Wales. On all three occassions Los Pumas started poorly conceding early tries to be in a bad position early on. The Wallabies and England both effortlessly scored first half tries as did Wales. It was such that despite not playing bad early on Argentina was 20-0 behind in the 24th minute.
The first Welsh try came in the 9th minute and was the quintessential fourteen point try after Mike Phillips intercepted a poor pass from Julio Farías Cabello which Nicolás Sánchez juggled into the arms of Phillips. The scrumhalf ran in from well inside his own half after Argentina had been advancing well and looking dangerous. It was Wales´ second try scoring opportunity with the first having come in the 6th minute only for Horacio Agulla to complete an impressive tackle on George North. Agulla, though, would not get the better of the Welshman again and was embarrassed in the 24th minute as North scored a well taken individual try.
Argentina would hit back with a Sánchez penalty in the 29th minute but that was as good as it would get all game for the South Americans as the visitors would not be able to score a try and would only kick one more goal. In other words the disorder that has seen Australia, England and Wales run Argentina ragged in the past three test matches has been matches in the last two by an inability to score tries. It has left Pumas fans extremely frustrated as the team continues to lose points in the IRB World Rankings and has struggled to put itself into winnable positions.
Part of the problem rests with the missing players. All of Gonzalo Camacho, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Juan Figallo, Juan Martín Hernández and Juan Imhoff would certainly have started if fit while Agustín Creevy likely would have also and Gonzalo Tiesi would certainly have made the 23. But, aside from Camacho, all were involved in one or both of the previous test matches. The game plan failed Argentina today as the lack of execution saw not only a gift try to Phillips but also saw Argentina unable to turn half opportunities into points. It meant the 34 point margin doubled the previous record loss of 33-16 in 2009.
Hourcade, though, is trying new things and this has seen a number of new players utilized but there does remain too many from the Santiago Phelan regime who have not been able to perform at the same level as their adversaries. Agulla was unable to do what is required on a rugby field by a Tier One winger today while Eusebio Guiñazú and Julio Farías Cabello were two others to be thoroughly outplayed. Santiago Cordero was beaten by Liam Williams in the lead-up to a second half Welsh try but at 19 years of age there was more than enough evidence that he is a certain quality player of the future. His first half break was arguably the highlight of Argentina´s performance.
Others involoved in the back-three were guilty of simple errors. In addition to Agulla´s defensive error enabling a North try both starting fullback Joaquín Tuculet and substitute Lucas González Amorosino failed to find touch with penalties which is simply not acceptable in test match rugby. The mid-fileders were unable to advance with ball in hand which further suggests that in 2014 Argentina will need to replace one of the centres with a larger ball carrier, potentially in the form of injured winger Manuel Montero.
For next week Argentina will be certain to field a number of changes as Daniel Hourcade cannot afford a loss. Should Argentina lose against Italy then it would be the worst European tour since Rugby World Cup 1999 and thelongest ever losing streak. With this in mind Argentina could be said to be very fortunate that it has been drawn in the same pool as Tonga for Rugby World Cup 2015 and that the tournament itself is to take place in two seasons time. The failure to have professional rugby in Argentina or teams in Super Rugby is proving to be crucial in the performances of Argentina in 2013.