Argentina almost there

23rd Sep 2007, 13:44


Air Force: Nani Corleto on his way to a try

Air Force: Nani Corleto on his way to a try

Argentina have one foot in the quarter-finals of the World Cup after crushing Namibia 63-3 in Marseille on Saturday, scoring nine tries.

Argentina have one foot in the quarter-finals of the World Cup after crushing Namibia 63-3 in Marseille on Saturday, scoring nine tries to nil.

The Pumas took a while to hit their rhythm, but late in the first half the tries started to flow, and from then on it was one-way traffic, with the Argentinians running in a second-half welter of tries through the backs.

Moreover, they remain the only side at the World Cup that has yet to concede a try.

Argentina now face Ireland knowing the Irish must both score four tries and deny the Pumas a losing bonus-point to progress to the play-offs; anything less from the Irish and the Argentinians will be through to the quarter-finals.

Argentina believe that the wider rugby world does not regard them as one the 'top tier' nations, but they certainly looked the part for the first 20 minutes of this match - they seemed strangely vulnerable to the snap of a minnow.

But unlike some of the more established rugby-playing nations - the Englands and Irelands of this world, if we must name names - Argentina boast plenty of shrewd operators and used their brains to right their lilting ship.

And so with a sail tightened here and a knot loosened there, it became plain-sailing for the men from South America.

Namibia drew first blood - their only points of the match - after Argentina infringed in defence. Morne Schreuder, a late replacement for Tertius Losper, slotted the ensuing penalty.

Felipe Contepomi replied with a penalty of his own moments later, but that predicted try-fest was still conspicuous by its absence.

With running options limited by Namibia's tenacious tacklers, Contepomi sent a telepathic message to his twin brother and chipped through the lines. Manuel sneaked through but lost control of the ball at the vital moment and the Kelvin Deaker, the man with the remote, disallowed the try.

Poor handling then became all the rage, with butterfingers butchering a number of Argentine attacks.

With the free-flowing stuff failing to materialise, Argentina's canny skipper Agustín Pichot decided to tweak tactics by asking his forwards to deliver what his backs could not.

The big men responded well, breaching Namibia's defence with a surging maul in the 26th minute of the game. Rodrigo Roncero was awarded the try, but the effort was spirited up by the community of forwards.

Juan Manuel Leguizamón added Argentina second try after an equally muscular piece of foreplay. It was powerful five-metre scrum that did the damage this time, and Namibia's loose forwards were unable to impeded the London Irish star's drive from the base.

Sitting pretty on the cushion of two tries, the Pumas decided to stretch their legs once again - and this time passes began to stick.

Manuel Contepomi made up for his earlier fumble by punctuating a flowing move by scoring in the corner, and Argentina went to the break with a 25-3 lead in their pocket and just one try away from that vital bonus point.

The Namibians made it patently obvious that they would not make things easy for their neighbours from across the South Atlantic by raising their game early in the second half.

A series of splendid rolling mauls put Argentina in reverse, but the South Americans trumped that with a piece of first-phase brilliance.

Pichot fed Felipe Contepomi off the back of an innocuous scrum outside Namibia's 22, and the Leinster star opened a hole in the defence by feinting inside and out. The gatemen of the gap could only gawk at each other as the surgeon knifed between them to collect Argentina's all-important four try.

Job done. But the Pumas did not feel the need to clock off early.

A trademark run from Leguizamón spawned his second and Argentina's fifth, and he was soon followed over the line by his club colleague, Gonzalo Tiesi.

Ignacio Corleto then got on the end of a fine phase of inter-passing to score, and the game - as a contest - was over.

But credit to Namibia for refusing to throw in the towel, even after referee Stuart Dickinson awarded a penalty try for a popped scrum on their line.

Argentina's top cats were then wrapped in cotton-wool in preparation for next Sunday's date with Ireland in Paris, and it was left to their understudies to hammer the final nails home.

The massacre was duly completed by replacement fly-half Federico Todeschini who linked up well with Tiesi for Argentina's ninth and final try.

It was a nice moment for Todeschini. The Montpellier pivot had feared that he might be sent home after he picked up an injury early in the tournament, and his mates acknowledged his scoring return with big smiles - smiles that will send shivers down Irish spines.

Man of the match: The Namibians played with heart but were thoroughly outgunned in all facets of play, with wing Deon Mouton engineering the only moments of relative danger. Argentina's sublime halfback combo of Felipe Contepomi and Agustín Pichot orchestrated this win, but we'll hand our award to Juan Manuel Leguizamón whose work from the base of the scrum broke Namibia's resolve and kept his side on the front foot.

Moment of the match: Perhaps Argentina's fourth try, not so much for its bonus-point appeal but for the moment of individual magic from Felipe Contepomi.

Villain of the match: Not a naughty moment in the whole game - no award.

The scorers:

For Argentina:
Tries: Roncero, Leguizamón 2, M Contempomi, F Contempomi, Tiesi, Corleto, Penalty try, Todeschini
Cons: Contempomi 4, Todeschini 2
Pens: Felipe Contempomi 2

For Namibia:
Pen: Schreuder

Argentina: 15 Ignacio Corleto, 14 Hernán Senillosa, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Manuel Contepomi, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Felipe Contepomi, 9 Agustín Pichot (c), 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 7 Juan Martín Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Lucas Ostiglia, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Carlos Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, 3 Omar Hasan, 2 Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16 Mario Ledesma, 17 Juan Martín Scelzo, 18 Rimas Álvarez Kairelis, 19 Gonzalo Longo, 20 Nicolás Fernandez Miranda, 21 Federico Todeschini, 22 Federico Serra Miras.

Namibia: 15 Heini Bock, 14 Deon Mouton, 13 Du Preez Grobler, 12 Corne Powell (c), 11 Melrick Africa, 10 Morne Schreuder, 9 Eugene Jantjies, 8 Tinus du Plessis, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Michael MacKenzie, 5 Nico Esterhuize, 4 Wacca Kazombiaze, 3 Marius Visser, 2 Johannes Meyer, 1 Johnny Redelinghuys.
Replacements: 16 Hugo Horn, 17 Kees Lensing, 18 Herman Lindvelt, 19 Heino Senekal, 20 Jurie van Tonder, 21 Bratley Langenhoven, 22 Piet van Zyl.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson
Touch judges: Simon McDowell, Carlo Damasco
Television match official: Kelvin Deaker
Assessor: Stuart Beissel