Saturday, November 8, 2014

International Rugby: Scotland v Argentina Highlights

Photo Crédito: UAR
The Daniel Hourcade coached Los Pumas team was given a wake-up call by an impressive Scottish side who ran out 41-31 winners in Edinburgh earlier today. The performance of Argentina against Australia in Mendoza featured a team effort with the roles of individuals collectively combining to see the South Americans make history. The triumph, though, was not the start of a winning streak as Scotland humiliated a Pumas team lacking cohesion and one that barely got out of second gear. Scotland's five tries to four win was based not only on playing better rugby than the visitors but, crucially, tactically out-smarting Argentina.  


Prior to the start of the current European tour social media had plenty of comments suggesting that Los Pumas were well placed to push for a complete autumn series sweep. In facing Scotland, Italy and France Argentina was up against the less bottom sides, on form, from the Six Nations. Yet rather than look to build on an opening win in the Scottish capital Daniel Hourcade must put everything into conquering Genoa next Saturday. 

On paper Scotland was superior in the second-rows and back-rows. But with Argentina having won against the Wallabies with similar players in these positions there was reason to believe that Scotland would be hard-pressed to knock-over Los Pumas, even though the match was at the home of Scottish rugby. 

Hourcade's players were similar to those from Mendoza. Back-rowers Juan Manuel Lerguizamón, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and Pablo Matera all missed facing the Wallabies which saw Benjamín Macome, Leonardo Senatore and Rodrigo Báez starting. Of them Senatore and Báez started today with Javier Ortega Desio joining them in the back-row. 

Macome lasted just thirteen minutes in Mendoza before being replaced by Desio Ortega. In Edinburgh it was the turn of the Pumas back-row crisis to strike with Báez suffering an injury. He was forced off in the sixteenth minute which saw Facundo Isa making his test debut. 

Three minutes after Isa's entrance to the match a second forward also came on with captain Agustín Creevy being replaced by Matías Cortese. The performances of both replacements were of merit but it was too little for a team badly outplayed by Vern Cotter's Scots. 

Argentina scored off a Scottish error in the third minute with Desio Ortega running fifty metres to score near the left corner. Nicolás Sánchez landed the difficult conversion but Scotland responded quickly with Richie Gray crossing just two minutes later. The ease in which the Castres second-rower crossed was alarming as he went over unmarked. 

A defensive error from Marcelo Bosch created an overlap but there was no player marking Gray with neither Tomás Lavanini nor Juan Cruz Guillemaín anywhere near the play. A lack of organization from scrumhalf Martín Landajo was clear and a similar situation presented itself in the twenty-second minute as the younger of the brothers, Jonny Gray crossed to make it 14-10 after Sánchez had landed a penalty. 

Landajo is likely to not start next week against Italy due not only to communication during the first two triers but also due to his replacement, Tomás Cubelli, performing significantly better and also due to Greig Laidlaw being a stand-out performer for the home side. Laidlaw created Scotland's third try from a quick-tap and did so with Landajo found out of position. 

With former Maori All Black Sean Maitland crossing Scotland was leading 21-10 which Laidlaw made 24-10 at the interval. Scotland's second and third tries came with the Europeans exploiting their fifteen on fourteen advantage after Juan Imhoff had been yellow carded for taking out a player without the ball and doing so with no arms. 

Scotland then increased what was becoming a humiliation when fullback Stuart Hogg crossed in the fortty-sixth minute. A repeated feature was Landajo being out performed by Laidlaw. Hourcade responded by bringing on Tomás Cubelli in the fifty-seventh minute at which time the Northern Europeans were leading 31-10. 

The injection of Cubelli was significant as he and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro were superior to the players that had started ahead of them. With Tetaz Chaparro the scrum improved and Cubelli's impact quickly resulted in a vastly better organized pack of forwards at the set piece and in the loose. Argentina's penalty try in the sixty-ninth minute was cancelled out by an interception in which Horacio Agulla was not in position to take a pass from Juan Martín Hernández. 

Agulla had come on for Bosch as Hourcade emptied in bench in the minutes leading up to the penalty try. With Argentina failing to deliver it gave all players a chance to put up their hand at selection next weekend. The player to do so more than any other was Cubelli who scored two tries in the final men minutes to bring some respectability to the scoreline as Scotland won by ten rather than twenty-five points. 

Cubelli could not only start against Italy but also be captain. Questions remain over the fitness of Creevy and Cubelli simply played well and made the team improve. Others likely to be promoted to the starting lineup are Francisco Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro and Santiago Cordero while Benjamín Macome, Juan Manuel Leguizamón and Matías Alemanno should, if fit, all start.

Cureious was the first half play from Argentina who, with ball in hand, had a set move at virtually every opportunity as backs would run a line of the shoulder of a forward or Sánchez. A lack of execution though saw the ball turned over. With Scotland in control at the interval such play was not attempted thereafter. Argentina, in other words, arguably lost confidence as Scotland played better and there was no clear Plan B.

Video Crédito ESPN Scrum

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