Pumas charge into semi-finals

Date published: October 18 2015

Argentina booked their place in the 2015 Rugby World Cup semi-finals after stunning Ireland 43-20 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Sunday.

Fully refreshed from a game's rest in their final pool match, los Pumas' first XV won the physical battle and fully deserved their passage into the last four, showing a great deal of attacking prowess to prove they are an ever-evolving outfit.

Tries were scored by Matías Moroni, Juan Imhoff (2) and Joaquin Tuculet while Nicolás Sánchez landed 23 points as Ireland had no answer to a side that cannot be taken lightly. In this form, they are capable of going all the way.

The loss of Paul O'Connell, Jonathan Sexton and Peter O'Mahony was clearly felt by Ireland early on but maybe that's doing a disservice to los Pumas, who were outstanding in the first quarter. During that passage they scored 20 points via two converted tries and a couple of penalties.

Moroni, in for the suspended Marcelo Bosch at outside centre, got the ball rolling inside three minutes following a powerful carry from Pablo Matera. The recycled ball came right to where the in-form Santiago Cordero ghosted round Dave Kearney before setting up Moroni for the opener.

Fly-half Sánchez continued his excellent recent form off the tee with the touchline conversion before adding the two from Imhoff's try only six minutes later. That try – his fifth of the competition – double Argentina's lead as he grounded Cordero's kick ahead just before it went dead.

Ireland were shell-shocked and wouldn't feel much better when Sánchez landed a penalty on 14 minutes. They desperately needed an in in the game, especially after adding Tommy Bowe to their already weighty injury list. He left the action with a knee injury, with Luke Fitzgerald coming on.

That came via Pumas prop Ramiro Herrera being yellow carded for a late tackle on Keith Earls, which lifted both Ireland players and supporters.

Madigan and Ireland's first points of the game soon followed before Sánchez struck back to make it 20-3 with 18 minutes remaining in the half.

One sensed from an Irish point of view they needed something more to cling to and fortunately for them it came 13 minutes before the turnaround from an opportunistic break-out. Sánchez's penalty hit the post and Ireland pounced on it, with replacement Fitzgerald crossing down the left.

The first score after the interval was always going to be critical and it went the way of the Irish, whose comeback continued thanks to Murphy popping up on the shoulder of Fitzgerald after the wing's bust into the 22. Madigan landed the extras and suddenly it was 20-17 to Argentina.

The momentum had well-and-truly swung in favour of the Irish at this point and they set about not letting it go to waste. Argentina though were steadfast and soaked up the pressure before making a break-out of their own through Cordero and Imhoff, which resulted in three points from Sánchez.

Argentina's six-point buffer was short-lived as on 51 minutes Herrera was penalised for a ruck clearout and Madigan made no mistake for 23-20.

He was not so fortunate from 45 metres out on the hour mark as his penalty attempt to level drifted wide, with both sides now having utilised their respective benches. The final quarter was all set up to be as fascinating as the opening three as a place in the semi-final was looming.

Los Pumas took a firmer grip on proceedings in the 64th minute when Devin Toner was punished for a high tackle on Sánchez, who made no mistake from the tee.

Cue an increase in tempo from Argentina as they ran in a further two tries in the closing stages through full-back Tuculet and a second from Imhoff before Sánchez rubbed salt into Irish wounds for 43-20 as the Pumas march on semi-final date against either Australia or Scotland next Sunday.

Man of the match: Pablo Matera deserves a special mention for his bruising opening half-hour but for another faultless 80 minute performance in blue and white, Nicolás Sánchez wins this award. 23 points from the Pumas maestro. Such an assured player.

Moment of the match: It was the perfect start from Argentina and while Ireland recovered to get within three points, los Pumas had landed crucial early body blows which they then exploited late on. An excellent opening 20 minutes from Agustin Creevy's men.

Villain of the match: Nothing overly untoward to report.

The scorers:

For Ireland:
Tries: Fitzgerald, Murphy
Con: Madigan 2
Pen: Madigan 2

For Argentina:
Tries: Moroni, Imhoff 2, Tuculet
Con: Sánchez 4
Pen: Sánchez 5
Yellow: Herrera (late, no arm tackle – 17 mins)

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip (c), 7 Chris Henry, 6 Jordi Murphy, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Nathan White, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Luke Fitzgerald.

Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Jerónimo De La Fuente, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.

Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

By Adam Kyriacou in Cardiff