Friday, January 31, 2014

Retro Friday - Argentina complete series win over Australia in 1987

Argentina made history in 1987 by defeating Australia to complete a series victory over the Wallabies in Buenos Aires. The South Americans won the two match series one - nil by winning the second test match after the first test was drawn. The hero of the series was IRB Hall of Famer Hugo Porta who was prominent in the outcome of both matches.

Argentina´s performances at Rugby World Cup 1987 did not go down in history as being memorable. With Fiji and Italy in the pool the South Americans were expected, at the time, to be the likely second placed side in the pool behind hosts New Zealand. Instead Argentina was badly defeated by the Fijians in the opening round of pool matches which effectively meant the match against Italy was not a must win encounter as elimination had all but been confirmed already.

The players had a chance of redemption the following month as Argentina hosted Australia for a two test tour. A positive outcome was a real possibility based on previous matches between the sides. The first ever test had only been played eight years earlier with Argentina winning 24-13 in Buenos Aires. Australia won the following weekend to prevent a series loss while Argentina would tour Australia in 1983 and 1986 for one win and three losses.

The one win was an 18-3 victory in Brisbane the year after Argentina had defeated South Africa in Bloemfontein. Argentina, in the early to mid 1980s was therefore very much a formidable team and this was further enforced when Argentina drew with the All Blacks in 1985. Such results are in stark contrast to those achieved thus far in the Rugby Championship but they are, nonetheless, a reminder of the extensive history that has made Argentina one of the most important countries in global rugby.

One of the common themes in Argentina´s notable results during the mentioned period was Hugo Porta. This was no different in the 1987 home series against the Wallabies. Rugby World Cup 1987 Semi Finalists Australia held a commanding 19-0 lead over Argentina but Porta turned the match with a master class display of kicking to secure an unlikely 19-19 draw with time running out. The following week he delivered again as Argentina had the better of the Wallabies to win 27-19 to complete a history making home series win over the team that would win the following Rugby World Cup.

Porta scored twenty-three points in the series decider in what was a match in which the Pumas forwards were in utter control of the second half. The crowd was delighted by the win which was sealed with a try on full time by replacement Cristian Mendy. The eruption of the crowd was unlike anything the Australian commentators had ever witnessed as Porta, his colleagues and the supporters were praised in utter respect. It was an early sign of why Argentina should host Rugby World Cup 2023. Porta would not play for Argentina in 1988 or 1989 but returned for one last stint in 1990. 

First Test

Second Test

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