Argentina finished their Rugby World Cup campaign on a high when they notched a 47-17 victory over the USA in Kumagaya on Wednesday.
With their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals dashed after losing to England at the weekend, the Pumas were determined to bounce back with an improved effort and they did just that as they dominated most facets of play and eventually outscored the USA by seven tries to three.
Nicolas Sanchez led the way with a 15-point haul courtesy of a try and five conversions while Joaquin Tuculet (2), Juan Cruz Mallia (2), Jeronimo De La Fuente and Gonzalo Bertranou also scored tries and Benjamin Urdapilleta succeeded with a two-pointer off the kicking tee.
For the USA, Blaine Scully scored a brace of tries and Paul Lasike also crossed the whitewash while AJ MacGinty added a conversion.
The opening exchanges were evenly contested with both teams showing a willingness to run the ball from all areas of the field.
In the 11th minute, Argentina thought they had taken the lead when Felipe Ezcurra crossed the whitewash after a sniping break off the back of a scrum, but referee Paul Williams disallowed the try after television replays revealed that Pablo Matera had held Tony Lamborn back off-the-ball at the set-piece.
Despite that setback, the Pumas were slowly gaining the upper-hand and midway through the half an excellent line break from Mallia caught the Eagles’ defence napping. He was soon on the edge of his opponents’ 22 where he got a pass out to Sanchez, who dotted down in the left-hand corner despite a desperate tackle from Mike Te’o.
Sanchez added the extras and five minutes later he turned provider when he delivered a chip kick behind the Eagles’ try-line which Te’o failed to deal with and Tuculet dived onto the bouncing ball for his side’s second try.
10 minutes later, the Pumas launched an attack at a lineout deep inside USA territory and after setting up some phases with their forwards, the ball was shifted wide to Tuculet, who crossed for his second try.
Sanchez was off target from the kicking tee but with the score 19-0 in their favour, Argentina were in the driving seat with half-time approaching. Just before the interval, the USA struck back when Scully gathered a teasing grubber kick from MacGinty before crossing for his side’s first try.
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That score did not alter the course of the match too much as Argentina came out firing in the second period and four minutes into the half Mallia ran a good line before scoring his side’s bonus-point try.
Four minutes later, Mallia grabbed his second five-pointer after running onto a pass from Tuculet and when De La Fuente crossed the whitewash in the 56th minute, the match was over as a contest.
The USA struck back with a try from Lasike on the hour-mark before Argentina hammered home their advantage when Bertranou scored their seventh try in the 71st minute, after good work from the impressive Mallia in the build-up.
To their credit, the Eagles continued to fight and they were rewarded in the game’s dying moments when Scully crossed for his second try after gathering a long pass from Will Hooley.
Tries: Sanchez, Tuculet 2, Mallia 2, De La Fuente, Bertranou
Cons: Sanchez 5, Urdapilleta
Tries: Scully 2, Lasike
Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Juan Cruz Mallia, 12 Jeronimo de La Fuente, 11 Santiago Carreras, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Pablo Matera (c), 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Agustín Creevy, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Gonzalo Martin Bertranou, 22 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23 Matías Moroni
USA: 15 Mike Te’o, 14 Blaine Scully (c), 13 Bryce Campbell, 12 Paul Lasike, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Ruben de Haas, 8 Cam Dolan, 7 Hanco Germishuys, 6 Tony Lamborn, 5 Greg Peterson, 4 Nate Brakeley, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Joe Taufete’e, 1 Eric Fry
Replacements: 16 Dylan Fawsitt, 17 Olive Kilifi, 18 Paul Mullen, 19 Ben Landry, 20 Ben Pinkelman, 21 Nate Augspurger, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Martin Iosefo
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)