Argentina vs. Ireland: Score and Lessons Learned from Admiral Brown Cup
Ireland completed an unconvincing win over an inexperienced Argentina side in Resistencia, Argentina, on Saturday night, 29-17.
After a promising and lively first-half performance, Ireland faded and found their defensive line broken on a number of occasions. While it's only the first match of the tour, coach Joe Schmidt was likely hoping for better. Argentina were resting 13 senior players for the game ahead of the World Rugby Championship.
The Ireland coach will take some useful lessons, both positive and negative, into the second Test.
Jonny Sexton Holds the Key
Fly-half Jonny Sexton was at the heart of all of Ireland's best moments. He commanded the game well, picking up 13 points on his way to the Man of the Match award.
His wraparound runs were a common theme in the early exchanges as Ireland sought to exploit space out wide. This created spaces through the middle for the hard-running Luke Marshall. Ireland lost this shape once Sexton left the field.
Two missed conversions were the only flaws in the Racing Metro fly-half's display. With Ireland missing a handful of senior players, Sexton stepped up to show the skills that make him world class. In a fitting finish, another Sexton loop saw him cross over for Ireland's last try.
Ireland Set Piece Is Strong
Ireland can take confidence from the strength of their set piece against Argentina. The towering and reassuring presence of Paul O'Connell in the lineout gave Ireland a solid base from which to attack. The ball off the top of the lineout allowed Ireland to find the wide channels quickly.
The Irish driving maul also proved a potent weapon. Chris Henry's first-half try was the reward for the power and precision in their forward shoves. The scrum also proved secure, which was a reassuring sign for Ireland with prop Cian Healy missing.
While Argentina were missing forwards of their own, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Juan Manuel Leguizamon, the security of the Irish set piece will give the team great confidence.
Cave Is a Candidate for the No. 13 Shirt
The post-Brian O'Driscoll era begins for Ireland in this tour of Argentina. The outside centre is a legend of the game, and finding someone to fill the No. 13 jersey is a pressing concern.
Darren Cave took on the task against Argentina and showed glimpses of good play. The 27-year-old Ulsterman had a try ruled out and found space to run out in the wide channels.
However, he did make some errors, particularly in defence. The Argentines broke through the Irish line too frequently for Joe Schmidt's liking. Cave, though, did enough to remain the man in possession of the No. 13 shirt for the second Test.
Argentina Are No Easy Opposition
Argentina may be resting 13 of their best players, but they proved on Saturday that their inexperienced side will be no pushovers.
Half-backs Martin Landajo and Nicolas Sanchez created problems with their explosive pace and footwork. Another player who caught the eye was 22-year-old winger Manuel Montero. His try was well-taken, weaving in and out before repelling Jonathan Sexton with a powerful fend.
If there were any doubts about the challenge this understrength Argentina side would provide for Ireland, those fears have now been dispelled. The Pumas may be inexperienced, but they were physical and disrupted Ireland's rhythm in the second half.
Incomplete Irish Performance
While Ireland can take some positives from their 12-point win, their performance fell away in the second half. There were several lapses in their defensive structure that allowed Argentina to finish the game on the front foot.
Ireland's loss of momentum was illustrated perfectly by Jamie Heaslip being driven back 10 metres in a tackle by replacement Santiago Iglesias. This was followed by a try for Tomas de la Vega, which confirmed Ireland's troubles.
Andrew Trimble's interception try meant that the final scoreline flattered Ireland somewhat. But for all their positive moments, Ireland will want to put together a full 80-minute performance in the second Test.