Saturday, May 23, 2015

International Rugby: Los Pumas win 2015 CONSUR Cup

Photo URP
Argentina is the 2015 CONSUR Cup champion after defeating Paraguay 71-7 in Asunción this evening. Played in extremely wet conditions the Martín Landajo captained Pumas team managed to play with demonstrated attacking intent to run out eleven tries to one winners. Involved were a combination of senior players and development squad members who could become regulars over time. Santiago Cordero continued to push for a regular place in the senior squad by running in a hat-trick. The fixture brings to a conclusion the second and final stage of the 2015 South American Championship. Argentina is to now face Fiji in a non-capped match in Colonia, Uruguay on Wednesday.    

In international rugby rarely does a Tier One team play wan away test against a Tier Three rugby playing nation. The South American Championship, nonetheless, provides the top two qualifiers with home internationals every year against Argentina. This year Los Pumas played in Uruguay and Paraguay to give the home sides unique opportunities. 

Paraguay's preparation for hosting the match saw players speaking of it as a 'once in a lifetime match ' and a game to 'play like it is the last'. Such is the gap in standard of Argentina compared to that of Paraguay that the players wearing Los Yakares colors were defending their country on a far from level platform. 

Paraguay, nonetheless, was far from humiliated. To the contrary the match provided the home side with valuable insight into how to move forward. While Argentina ran in eleven tries, with many showcasing highly skilled interplay, Paraguay's players got their deserved moment when Juan Sebastián Ortiz crossed for a try in the 79th minute from a lineout on the Argentine five metre line. 

The players and spectators on hand at the Heróes de Curupayti stadium in Asunción errupted in celebration and Ortiz gave a post-match interview in tears. Such was the importance of scoring a test match try against an elite opponent that he was overwhelmed with joy. The scoreline mattered little and nor should it for this fixture was never about two evenly or closely matched teams but rather entirely different goals for each.

Argentina achieved it's goals of utilizing the same game plan of the regular test side and succeeding in creating try scoring opportunities in the process. It did not come without numerous handling errors as the torrential rain before and during the match meant execution was highly complex. Argentina's first try came from Santiago Cordero who, playing left wing, latched onto a Joaquín Paz kick to open the scoring in the 11th minute. 

Both Cordero and Paz are among wider squad members hopeful of Rugby World Cup selection and UAR contracts ahead of the 2016 Super Rugby season. Onoe to have signed already scored next with Jerónimo De la Fuente crossing in the 16th minute and right winger Tomás Carrió giving Argentina a third try at the completion of the opening quarter. 

Fly half Juan León Novillo was tested by the conditions and it took Argentina's fourth try for him to find target. Novillo converted De la Fuente's second try which came in the 27th minute and also landed Cordero's second and the final try of the opening half scored by Paz. This gave Argentina a 36-0 half time lead in what had been a half with Argentina controlling possession and happy to run the ball out from the deep. 

Four minutes into the second half Novillo converted a try scored from the set piece with hooker Santiago González Valdez crossing near the right corner. Indeed Novillo's second half goalkicking was much improved compared to that of the first. Before being replaced by Santiago González Iglesias he was on target to convert tries scored by Cordero and replacement Julián Montoya who played out of position at loosehead prop. 

A seventeen minute period of no scoring was ended when back-rower Tomás Lezana scored a 68th minute try and it was followed by Argentina's final try in the 73rd minute with Lisando Ahualli de Chazal scoring. González Iglesias converted both tries before Paraguay's never give up attitude was rewarded in the closing minutes with Juan Sebastián Ortiz crossing from a try from a set-move. 

Having won lineout ball Paraguay set up a maul in which the backs entered with force to roll forward. Ortiz then collected from the resulting ruck to dive over for the try. The players and supporters errupted in celebrations and continued to do so while Gerard Cuttier slotted the conversion. With it referee Federico Cuesta called for fulltime giving Argentina a 71-7 victory.

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