SANZAR 1, Six Nations 0
Two second-half tries gave Argentina a convincing 26-12 victory over Six Nations champions Wales at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.
SANZAR 1, Six Nations 0, and the Pumas' win was emphatic against a side that showed little and did little, and were it not for Leigh Halfpenny and Toby Faletau the defeat would have been a thrashing. The Pumas were full value for their victory as two tries to nil states. And that was the points' difference at the end - two tries' worth to nought.
The roof was closed, the wreaths laid for Remembrance Day, silence, the haunting Last Post, the anthems and Rhys Priestland kicked off. 80 minutes later Nicolas Vergallo kicked out, the Pumas were delighted, the Welsh looked bemused and their people booed - booed their own team, not the visitors.
Wales did have a brief patch in the second half when they were already 26-12 down - but that fizzled out when they were penalised. A brief patch does not win a match.
A lot of the game was scrappy - perhaps because of the slippery field and the turf which, 13 years later, is still cutting up. Any meaningful continuity came from the Pumas. It was probably significant that the Pumas won more tackle turnovers and were less often ordered to 'Use it' at the tackle ruck.
The three-call scrum cadence did not seem to make a difference of note. There were 12 scrums, four collapses, three resets, four free kicks and two penalties.
The Pumas scored first when Ian Evans tackled high and Felipe Contepomi goaled. 3-0 after 3 minutes. Sadly Contepomi did not last the match. Alex Cuthbert fell on his knee and he was taken off. This tour was to have been his last Puma hurrah. It lasted but 13 minutes.
When Marcos Ayerza was penalised at a scrum, Halfpenny made it 3-all after 6 minutes. Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez dropped a goal - He attempted four and succeeded with two in the match - and then Juan José Imhoff played the man without the ball. 6-all after 13 minutes of a half in which only the Pumas showed much life.
A turnover gave Imhoff an overlap. The slender left wing sped ahead and then kicked a long grubber infield. Gonzalo Tiesi was first to the ball but knocked it on as he was being grabbed.
Wales lost Jamie Roberts when he clashed heads with Tiesi. Off he went with advertisers' dye making his face bizarre. He was not the only player so dyed.
Hooker Eusebio Guiñazu was penalised at a tackle. 9-6 to Wales after 26 minutes.
The Pumas may well have scored just before the break as they had the Welsh defence running hither and thither.
Early in the second half Sanchez missed two penalties. The easy first one hit the upright and he slipped taking the second. Instead Guiñazu was again penalised at a tackle and Halfpenny made it 12-6 after 48 minutes. Guiñazu was then substituted by Agustin Creevy who had a splendid game.
Sanchez kicked his second drop. 12-9 after 51 minutes, and then came a splendid try. It was scored by the Pumas, which was always more likely.
From a scrum they went through several sharp phases with some excellent offloading in the tackle till Imhoff burst between two defenders, skated around Halfpenny and scored under the posts. 16-12 after 55 minutes.
The Pumas threatened again when Imhoff ran in counterattack. Then the Pumas mauled a line-out. The referee called 'Advantage' but the Argentinians played on going right and with just one hand Gonzalo Camacho caught a long pass from Joaquin Tuculet and raced over for a diving try in the right corner. Sanchez converted. 23-12 with 20 minutes to play.
Wales turned a penalty into an attacking line-out but Manuel Carizza robbed them of the ball. They had an attacking scrum, but the Pumas won it. Instead the Pumas got back on top and Sanchez goaled a penalty with 9 minutes to play. 26-12.
Wales had phases, getting closer in their good patch, but when the Pumas were penalised Rob McCusker charged at the line and was penalised. The Pumas kicked out, won the line-out played lots of pick-'n-drive and won the game.
Man of the Match: Several Pumas did really well but our choice is captain Juan Martín Fernandez Lobbe, the heart, soul and muscle of the side.
Moment of the Match: The sight of Juan José Imhoff speeding through the gap, rounding Leigh Halfpenny and diving for a brilliant try., It could be done.
Villain of the Match: Nobody...
Pens: Halfpenny 4
Tries: Imhoff, Camacho
Cons: Sanchez 2
Pens: Contepomi, Sanchez
DGs: Sanchez 2
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Paul James, 19 Rob McCusker, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 James Hook, 23 Liam Williams.
Argentina: 15 Juan Martin Hernandez, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Felipe Contepomi, 11 Juan Jose Imhoff, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), 5 Julio Farias Cabello, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Juan Gomez, 19 Tomas Vallejos, 20 Tomas Leonardi, 21 Nicolas Vergallo, 22 Horacio Agulla, 23 Joaquin Tuculet.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)