Monday, September 29, 2014

Rugby Championship: Horacio Agulla Ends Try Scoring Drought

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Horacio Agulla's bad luck came to an end on Saturday as he scored his first international try in more than five years. The Bath winger's second half try was his first since crossing against Uruguay in May 2010, or his first in thirty-one tests. His try was his fifth in international rugby with his previous tries having come against Samoa in 2006, Ireland in 2007, Scotland in 2008 and Uruguay in 2010. His record in the Aviva Premiership has been significantly higher which raises questions over how he has been used. A permanent move to outside centre continues to be discussed. He started in the position in Argentina's win over Italy last November. 

Argentina's attacking approach used in the 2014 Rugby Championship has created more try scoring opportunities than in previous years which has commentators of the view that, in time, wins are going to come and do so with regularity. On Saturday evening in La Plata Argentina's one try was scored late in the match with replacement Horacio Agulla scoring his frist test try in the history of the competition.

Agulla had been a regular under former coach Santiago Phelan. Having impressed at Rugby World Cup 2007 while still an amateur playing for Hindú, Agulla subsequently went to play professional rugby for Dax and Brive in France before moving to England firstly to Leicester and then to his current home, Bath. In the Aviva Premiership Agulla has enjoyed the form of his career and has scored many tries. 

His form solidified him as a first choice Pumas winger but he was unable to convert it into tries at international level. With Daniel Hourcade looking to have a more attacking edge he opted for younger, faster wingers with Juan Imhoff and Manuel Montero having arguably come to be Hourcade's preferred combination. Indeed when fit the two have started more tests under Hourcade than any other wingers.

Montero has scored seven test tries this year, including four against Uruguay in the CONSUR Cup. Imhoff last scored v Italy but has not readily been free to oplay due to dates and injuries. With Agulla on the bench he was covering both players in addition to fullback Joaquín Tuculet and outside centre Marcelo Bosch, the later of whom he replaced in the 65th minute. 

Bosch has been one of Argentina's most reliable players since Argentina joined the Rugby Championship with the international rugby media tending to regularly name him as one of, if not the best, Pumas back. It has seen Gonzalo Tiesi fall out of favor and Hourcade made the decision to not select the Newcastle Falcon and instead put trust in Horacio Agulla and Jerónimo De la Fuente.

Agulla at outside centre would appear to be the way forward both for player and team and with benches requiring elite players Agulla has the advantage of being a utility. With Argentina facing Georgia, Namibia and Tonga after opening against New Zealand a player of Agulla's nature is well suited to the demands of Rugby World Cup pool play.

 His try in La Plata came from a team effort which started seventy metres down field. Replacement prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro made a half break and offloaded to Lucas Noguera Paz in a tackle. Quick ball saw Martín Landajo passing to Juan Imhoff who broke the line and fed Santiago González Iglesias who advanced before feeding Benjamín Macome who entered the 22 and was tackled in a good position. Landajo passed wide to Juan Fernández Lobbe who had Agulla coming in on an angle to receive a pass and get passed the tackles of Ben Franks and Julian Savea.

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