Ireland battle to hard-fought win
June 14, 2014
Ireland claimed their first Test series victory in Argentina after overcoming some first-half jitters to seal a 23-17 victory over the Pumas in Tucuman.
Ireland, who won the opening match 29-17 last weekend, trailed 10-9 at the break in the second Test at the Estadio Jose Fierro but second-half tries from Simon Zebo and replacement Ian Madigan helped them claim the spoils. Jonny Sexton also slotted over three penalties and a conversion for the Six Nations champions, with Madigan adding the extras for his try.
Ireland started brightly and took the lead in the fifth minute when Argentina No.8 Antonio Ahualli de Chazal was penalised, and Sexton made no mistake with the straightforward penalty. A minute later the tourists looked like they had increased their lead further when Sexton's kick picked out Zebo in space on the left wing, only for the Munster flyer to run out of space and a toe in touch denied him a third international try.
Ireland's hopes of a second win of their summer tour were boosted in the ninth minute when Argentina hooker Matias Cortese was sin-binned for an illegal chop tackle on the rampaging Dave Kilcoyne, and once again Sexton had an easy job to convert the penalty to give Ireland a 6-0 advantage.
But Argentina coped easily with Ireland's numerical advantage and two minutes before Cortese's return, the numbers were evened up when Andrew Trimble was also sin-binned when he took out Argentina winger Manuel Montero without the ball.
Nicolas Sanchez slotted the resultant penalty to halve Ireland's lead, but after 21 minutes the Sexton-Zebo link almost produced dividends once again, only for a saving tackle from Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino to deny Rob Kearney.
Joe Schmidt's side looked certain to score the game's opening try, and only a forward pass from Jamie Heaslip stopped Chris Henry's drive to the tryline in the 21st minute. And from the resultant defensive scrum, Argentina would end up scoring a try of their own.
Home skipper Martin Landajo broke easily through the porous Irish defensive line, and although Zebo's covering tackle denied Amorosino a certain score, quick ball was presented to Landajo and his skip pass sent Joaquin Tuculet in for a simple try.
That try gave the home side a four-point lead, but eight minutes before the break Sexton landed a third penalty of the half when Lucas Noguera Paz flew off his feet after strong carries from Kilcoyne and Heaslip. Despite that effort though, Ireland still trailed at the break as Argentina looked to level up the series.
Sexton missed a slightly awkward penalty three minutes after the restart, but Ireland recaptured the lead in the 51st minute when Eoin Reddan broke smartly off a rolling maul and sent Zebo in for his try with a fine inside pass.
Sexton's conversion made it 16-10 to Ireland but the Racing Metro fly-half left the action following a clash of heads 15 minutes from time, with his former Leinster team-mate Madigan taking over the kicking duties.
He missed the target with his first effort but he made amends when he converted his own try, which he made with a neat sidestep to score under the posts seven minutes from time to put Ireland 23-10 ahead.
Ireland, who sent on James Cronin, Noel Reid and Rob Herring for their debuts in the closing stages, conceded a second Argentina try right at the end when Amarasino went over but the match - and the series - were already safely in the bag for the tourists.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
England must find a way to improve their game by tiny margins and they will get there, writes Phil Vickery
"England remind me of a PlayStation rugby team," John Mitchell on tactics and the search for a first-choice fly-half ahead of the World Cup
Augustine Pulu will return home with little more than 20 minutes rugby in one month on tour. It is time for more midweek games writes Craig Dowd
Samoa's Sivi Tau says the team "come completely prepared", the reality is a world away. Seilala Mapusua on Samoa and building a future