Saturday, October 4, 2014

Rugby Championship: Argentina v Australia Highlights

Photo UAR
History was made in Mendoza earlier this evening as Argentina completed a come back to defeat Australia 21-17. The narrow victory came after the Wallabies stormed out to an early 14-0 lead and appeared on track to repeat the result from the 2013 fixture in Rosario in which Australia won 54-17. But the coaching of Daniel Hourcade and the trust he placed in his players proved decisive as Argentina proved themselves to be a far better team than suggested by the IRB World Rankings. The new rankings, released on Monday, will see Argentina up two places. 

Few teams can allow Australia to score two early tries and hope to still have a chance of winning. In years gone by Argentine sides that conceded early points were unable to recover but the current side, coached by Daniel Hourcade, proved to have a fighting spirit to catch the Wallabies and seize control in the second half.

Australia's early 14-0 advantage came from two well taken tries as defensive errors from the South Americans saw Tevita Kuridrani and Scott Higginbotham crossing for tries in the 2nd and 14 minutes. With the kicking of fly half Bernard Foley on target Australia was out to an ominous lead. Los Pumas, though, regathered themselves and had the better of play for the remainder of the half, and indeed the match.

As early as the 17th minute captain Agustín Creevy turned down kickable points to opt for a scrum as he believed Argentina had a clear weapon worse utilizing. While Argentina did dominate in this area it was not entirely one way traffic which saw Argentina forced to wait until the 34th minute to get on the board. 

Having come close to scoring on more than one occasion but failing to execute chances Argentina remained pointless until Leonardo Senatore crossed for a try from the 13th phase. His try in the right corner was enabled by repeated advances requiring the Wallabies to put more players into the tackle area. Consequently Senatore was an extra man as he dived over to the delight of the vocal crowd. 

Fly half Nicolás Sánchez was unable to land the difficult conversion but as on target several minutes later as Argentina was awarded a penalty twenty-five metres in front of the posts. The kick made it 14-8 to the Wallabies at the interval, a much smaller margin than had been likely midway through the opening half. 

Upon awarding the penalty to Argentina Welsh referee Nigel Owens had a yellow card in his hand and was to send second-rower James Horwill to the sidelines for ten minutes. Upon viewing video footage, however, he changed his mind which allowed Australia to remain with fifteen players on the field. Owens nonetheless had strong words to say to captain Michael Hooper and three minutes into the second half scrum-half Nick Phipps was yellow carded for kicking the ball from an offside position in a ruck.

With Australia a man down Creevy opted for a shot which saw Sánchez narrow the gap to five points but Foley shortly returned it to a six point game as he slotted a penalty from a scrum four minutes later. It came after Kuridrani looked to have scored his second try but, after being viewed by the TMO, Australia went for the posts. 

Argentina then took the lead in the 52nd minute as Senatore picked up and ran from the base of an advancing scrum. The back-rower attracted two defenders while passing to scrumhalf Martín Landajo who completed an overlap as the ball went through the hands with Horacio Agulla finding Juan Imhoff with the final pass who demonstrated his speed to dive over. Sánchez landed the kick from the touch line to make it 18-17 in the 53rd minute. 

Australia was then a player down again as Owens yellow carded Israel Folau for careless play which took out fullback Joaquín Tuculet in the air. Again, however, having viewed the incident on the television at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas the Welshman extraordinarily reversed his decision, which saw the Wallabies remain at fifteen players until the 73rd minute when Hooper was yellow carded for taking out Tuculet in the air.

Owens awarded Argentina a penalty from where the ball bounced which saw Sánchez line up a shot from near the halfway line. The long range attempt was on target and with it Argentina was four points ahead and had a one man advantage with seven minutes left to play. Unlike against South Africa in Salta, Argentina held firm and with the replacements wisely used a late scrum saw the home side awarded a penalty and kick the ball into touch to confirm the victory. 

Ther players, coaches and spectators all erupted as Argentina's eagerly-awaited first Rugby Championship victory was realized. The occasion was a further indication of the strong and increasing following the team and the sport of rugby enjoy in Argentina. With the Americas yet to be allocated a Rugby World Cup but Europe having hosted 50% of all tournaments 2023 ought to see the tournament played in Argentina. 

The country's move to professionalism is to see Argentina entering Super Rugby in 2016 with the Pampas becoming a franchise. The Pampas has won lower level competitions in Australia and South Africa and has, notably, produced a vast number of test players. Hourcade has seen a fundamental change in this regard to the extent that eleven of the starting fifteen are Pampas players either past or present. 

Only centres Juan Martín Hernández and Horacio Agulla in addition to prop Marcos Ayerza and winger Lucas González Amorosino had not featured for the Pampas XV in or since 2010. Moreover seven of the eight replacements were all Pampas players this year in the IRB Pacific Cup. 

Many have gone from the Pampas to professionalism abroad with Benjamín Macome having signed a return to France recently. He was unable to play long in Mendoza, however, as he was forced off in just the 13th minute. With Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Juan Manuel Leguizamón and Pablo Matera all missing it meant Javier Desio Ortega was thrust onto the field for a baptism of fire. 

Desio Ortega impressed to underline Hourcade's selection policies as being shrewd. Hourcade decided against a number of professional players in favor of Pampas'. The result was no caps for playes including Patricio Albacete, Martín Bustos Moyano, Manuel Carizza, Matías Díaz, Santiago Fernández, Agustín Figuerola, Eusebio Guiñazú, Francisco Goméz Kodela, Nahuel Lobo, Juan Pablo Socino, Gonzalo Tiesi and Benjamín Urdapilleta.

The result of the match will see changes to the IRB World Rankings which are updated every Monday at midday GMT. Argentina is to rise two places to 10th, ahead of Japan and Fiji while Australia will drop behind England to fourth. With Argentina to face France, Italy and Scotland in November the prospect now exists for Argentina to finish the year ranked notably higher as very few points now separate Argentina from both Scotland and Samoa while France, Ireland and Wales are also all within reach.


  1. Excellent stuff Pumas! Glad to see them get a win at last, after coming so close before... It was good to see them fight back so bravely after being 14-0 down, and to score two excellent tries in the process...

    I feel the lazer issue, while a serious one, shouldn't be allowed to dominate the post match talk to the extent it is in some sections of the media...We should be focusing on the importance of this historic victory for Argentine and international rugby...

    A number of people in the media have had a moan about dodgy refereeing against the Wallabies too... How quickly they seem to forget how badly the Pumas have suffered in this tournament over the past three years at the hands of poor officiating... The issue of refereeing blunders has been going on for years (and all teams have suffered)... To those people I say: How about accepting on this occasion, lazers or refereeing aside, that the Pumas won because they controlled the match and were the better team?

    Cheers from Bogota.

  2. Excellent win by the Pumas. Congratulations. Hopefully the first of many more. I think the team has probably tested their fans' patience as they have had several opportunities to previously but as they say the first time is always the hardest!

    The team has done consistently better this year and there seems to be more depth coming into the squad overall remembering that this team was lacking a number of normal starting members for this game. This is a welcome surprise as with the internal politics going on the last year and indeed the forgettable 2013 end of year tour results, I had thought this year could be a tough one for the Pumas and that they would possibly be further away from a maiden win thatn in the first two years.

    There are some work ons. The lineout was not brilliant, especially in both games v the ABs, the team while trying to play more attacking rugby got regularly turned over especially in the two AB games and the game v Australia on the Gold Coast from which they got bitten by counter-attack tries, and also meant they failed to exert more pressure after promising breaks and indeed turn those breaks into points. The support play must improve. Also there was a lack of accuracy in catching in passing which also foiled some great chances (having said that the two tries v Australia in Mendoza saw great catch and pass skills) with passes behind players or knock-ons.

    Sanchez' general play was very good but he needs to improve his goal-kicking accuracy which seems a strange thing to say about Argentina. He missed an important penalty from 40m but right in front v the Boks that would've given the game to the Pumas in the end. Argentina can't afford to have a kicker who is not consistently on target. As the underdogs of the championship they need to turn as many of their chances into points as possible.

    Lastly, the laser thing can't afford to be glossed over. If it was the first time maybe yes, but this wasn't. Very disappointing since we hadn't seen it in games v Boks and ABs so I was hoping it had been dealt with. I'm sure there's going to be a complaint to SANZARA from the ARU and if Argentina doesn't watch itself the UAR could be on the end of a fine or the Pumas might be suspended for a year, and if keeps on going they could be thrown out of the competition which would be very sad. It would probably also have a negative effect on their chances of hosting a RWC which is what this blog is all about. Frankly the UAR either deal with this and those Pumas fans ameliorate their behaviour or there are going to be consequences. A lot of the condemnation about the lasers on sites like Planet Rugby hasn't even come from Wallaby fans. It's come from NZers, South Africans, and UK & Irish fans. So it seems everyone is pretty united in their distate for this incident. I suspect Chris you are very much in the minority of fans wishing for this to be accepted and a blind eye taken.

  3. I forgot to mention that I thought Leonardo Senatore who I hadn't really thought too highly of previous to this RC was a standout for the Pumas. Heaps of good runs and finally rewarded with a try in this last match. Looks like he's really come of age and become one of the Pumas real go to men.

    Feel a bit sorry for usual captain Fernandez-Lobbe. Pumas finally win and he's not there to enjoy it!

  4. Yamaha Kiwi, I didn't actually say I think the use of lasers should be accepted, or that we should turn a blind eye to such behaviour. If you read again what I wrote, I said “I feel the laser issue, while a serious one, shouldn't be allowed to dominate the post match talk to the extent it is in some sections of the media...We should be focusing on the importance of this historic victory for Argentine and international rugby...”. So I consider it to be a serious problem. However, what I didn't like was the way so much media attention was given to the actions of a few idiots in the crowd, rather than celebrate what the Pumas had achieved, both for Argentine rugby and The Rugby Championship as a whole (unfortunately the two events happened at the same time, so the lasers inevitably overshadowed the on field action).

    I agree action needs to be taken—but against the laser users themselves. These people need to be isolated and sanctioned. When there are isolated incidents of crowd behaviour, I do NOT believe it is right to punish the WHOLE rugby community of a given country for the actions of a small minority, who most probably are not true rugby fans (given the high expectation of behaviour traditional rugby fans have in Argentina).

    I think expelling the Pumas from the Rugby Championship would be a hugely damaging backward step for the game-- not only in that country, but for the tournament as a whole. We’d be back to square one, after waiting for so long to see the Pumas given their place in the tournament! Talk about international rugby shooting itself in the foot!

    Shall we ban New Zealand from the Rugby Championship / Super Rugby for their problems with streakers in recent years? Or for a certain incident in Christchurch, 2000 involving a… laser (Springbok Van Straaten the victim that time)? And why haven’t South African teams been banned from the same competitions, given their track record of crowd problems down the years (including a fan assaulting and injuring the referee in the 2002 tri nations, missiles being thrown onto the pitch in the 2004 tri nations, crowd fights in Super Rugby 2013-- resulting in one fan’s death--, Kevin Mealamu being hit by a bottle in 2012 etc.)? I have included links for each of the incidents I’ve mentioned…

    The story on the fan attacking the ref (also contains info about streakers in the same tournament):

    Story on the fan dying in a fight after a game involving the Sharks v Rebels.

    I don’t buy this idea of punishing everyone for the transgressions of a few irresponsible individuals… Target the people responsible and eject them from the stadium. Don’t sanction the country involved, as this only alienates the players who give their all and the well behaved fans who support their team responsibly game after game.

    Here’s an idea which might work for the laser incident (although this one involves a glass bottle!). It comes when my Dad was watching a Ranfurly Shield match back in the day… A fan threw a glass bottle from the Millard stand, which cut open the head of a prop on the opposing team. Up came the police into the stand, wanting to know who was responsible. EVERYONE in that part of the stadium pointed to the culprit…With 200 odd fingers pointing to the same person, the police had their culprit and took swift action to remove him. That might be an idea… Name and shame the culprit… That kind of self-policing would look great for rugby too!