Ireland prevail over ill-tempered Pumas
November 22, 2008
Ireland edged a bruising encounter at Croke Park this afternoon to guarantee their inclusion among the second seeds at the 2011 World Cup draw.
Ronan O'Gara kicked 12 points with Ireland having to wait until the final quarter to break the resistance of a typically stubborn Argentina. A match short on quality was balanced on a knife edge until the Irish pack eventually assumed control, pounding the Pumas into submission with Tommy Bowe's late try sealing victory.
Argentina were hit by the late withdrawal of superstar fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez to injury with Santiago Fernandez replacing him. Losing Hernandez - Argentina's playmaker and points machine - was a savage late blow yet Fernandez did the Stade Francais fly-half proud with a towering early bomb. The flight of the kick deceived Tommy Bowe who was left floundering after the loose ball but it bounced away from lurking winger Rafael Carballo and Ireland were saved.
The match was shrouded in tension and tempers flared in the eighth minute, resulting in a warning from referee Bryce Lawrence delivered to both captains. Ireland won the penalty which they used to build field position, but the subsequent back moves were telegraphed and failed to trouble the Pumas defence.
Flannery limped off and was replaced by Rory Best as a physical opening quarter claimed its first victim. Argentina were tackling with great ferocity, giving the Irish little chance to make any headway with the steady stream of possession they were accumulating.
Murphy was showing composure under the high ball and thrust in attack, but the same could not be said for fly-half Ronan O'Gara whose decision-making was poor. A missed penalty offered O'Gara no respite but when Bowe set off on an electrifying break Ireland appeared destined to score.
The Ospreys winger sliced his way between two defenders and raced to Argentina's 22, picking out David Wallace in support. Wallace had Rob Kearney on his outside shoulder but did not hear the call to pass, instead finding Ferris who knocked on with the line at his mercy.
Ireland's discipline was holding well in difficult circumstances but they cracked in the 30th minute, although Fernandez's missed penalty let them off the hook. O'Gara gifted him another attempt when he shoulder barged Mario Ledesma off a ruck and this time Fernandez was on target.
The Lions outside-half replied in kind moments later when Argentina were penalised for not releasing as Ireland pressed.
Fernandez missed his second shortly after the restart and Argentina were immediately on the retreat as David Wallace bulldozed his way into space. Ireland were suffering from some terrible handling in the backs but when the Pumas were penalised at a lineout O'Gara responded with three points. The video referee was needed to rule out a 'try' by Martin Durand in the 55th minute following a poor clearance by Tomas O'Leary.
Ireland's discipline was crumbling, squandering strong field positions with two poor penalties. It was O'Gara's turn to miss his second penalty in the 61st minute after O'Leary had ruined a rousing forward drive by taking the wrong option. Brian O'Driscoll let Argentina off the hook with a poor pass and Ireland turned their attention to the drop goal, which O'Gara managed at the third attempt.
He hit the crossbar with another penalty but the Pumas' fate was sealed with five minute to go when his sights were better adjusted and Ireland were finally able to breath easy. Wallace was stretchered off and then Bowe crossed to put the result beyond doubt, collecting O'Gara's kick to seal the outcome.
Ireland: Murphy, Bowe, O'Driscoll, Fitzgerald, Kearney, O'Gara, O'Leary, Horan, Flannery, Hayes, O'Callaghan, O'Connell, Ferris, D. Wallace, Heaslip.
Replacements: Best for Flannery (14), Ryan for D. Wallace (76). Not Used: Buckley, O'Kelly, Reddan, P. Wallace, Earls.
Argentina: Agulla, Leonelli, Aramburu, Avramovic, Carballo, Fernandez, Vergallo, Roncero, Ledesma, Orlandi, Alvarez, Albacete, Durand, Fernandez Lobbe, Leguizamon.
Replacements: Stortoni for Leonelli (61), Figuerola for Vergallo (61), Ayerza for Orlandi (48), Lozada for Alvarez (55). Not Used: Basualdo, Galindo, Comuzzi.
Sin Bin: Roncero (79).
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand).
Assistant referees: Mark Lawrence (South Africa), Rob Debney (England)
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