Friday, November 14, 2014

International Rugby: Italy v Argentina Highlights

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Los Pumas recovered from an underwhelming performance against Scotland last weekend to defeat Italy 20-18 in Genoa earlier this evening. The young Argentine side was behind by 12-10 at the interval but was able to fight-back to win by two tries to nil. While the South Americans played an error-ridden game they conceeded no tries, five fewer than the total at Murrayfield last Saturday. The match had been scheduled for Saturday but was moved forward by one day due to severe weather in the region throughout the week which is expected to deteriorate on Saturday.  

Having gone ahead 20-15 ten minutes from fulltime Argentina appeared to have completed an away victory. The South Americans had been the better side for the majority of the second half but Italy recovered to play very well in the closing ten minutes. A penalty from Argentine Luciano Orquera was all the Italians scored though enabling Los Pumas to close out the match for a two point victory. 

The result will ease tensions and enable Daniel Hourcade's players and management team to build towards a demanding fixture against France in Paris next Saturday. He may need to make further alterations to the squad following the early loss of Joaquin Tuuclet to injury in the opening minutes of the second half and Guido Petti being forced off in the 74th minute. 

With Tuculet gone adjustments saw Matías Moroni involved in a senior Pumas team for the first time. Horacio Agulla thus moved to the wing from outside centre with  Lucas González Amorosino filling in at fullback. The Cardiff Blues speedster was instrumental in the win as he saved Italy's best chance at scoring and also crossed for the opening try of the match. 

Trailing 12-3 González Amorosino went over in the final minute of the first half as he wrong-footed two defenders to dive over the near posts. Juan Martín Hernández landed the conversion to make it a two point game at the interval. In the lead-up to the try González Amorosino had gotten past New Zealander Kelly Haimona who kicked fifteen points for the home team. 

Haimona had been a stand-out performer on attack but was not able to stop González Amorosino which proved costly. With the South Americans having the better of play for the third quarter Italy's lead was cut when Rosario's Jerónimo De la Fuente crossed under the posts. A quick tap from captain Tomás Cubelli found Juan Martín Hernández who fed De la Fuente with a well directed flat pass to get past Sergio Parisse.

The try would be the crucial moment and, ultimately, the difference between a win and a loss. Argentina was able to take two opportunities and score while Italy was tryless. Both teams will now have an extra day before their toughest tests of the month with Italy hosting South Africa and Argentina facing France.

The availability, or not, of Tuculet will be monitored while other places will also requrie close attention. Both Benjamín Macome and Juan Manuel Leguizamón are expected to be declared fit while Guido Petti may miss out through injury. Hourcade could end the non-selection of Manuel Carizza or look to utilize Macome in the second-row. Of note is that 20 year old back-rower Tomás Lezana was the only replacement not used in Genoa.

Of those who featured from the bench the overall performance was positive. Ramiro Herrera, Martín Landajo and Nicolás Sánchez all gained some form of redemption from Murrayfield while former Pumitas captain Santiago González Valdez showed signs of being a long-term prospect at hooker.

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