Ireland got the better of Argentina in Resistencia, running out 29-17 winners to claim a historical victory. Tries from Chris Henry, Jonathan Sexton and Andrew Trimble helped the men in green to their first-ever triumph on Argentinean soil, as they had far too much for their hosts.
Who will win the second test?
It was an admittedly understrength Pumas outfit, as Argentina have chosen to do without any European-based players for the two-test series, and it showed. Aside from a stunning try in the first half from Manuel Montero, they demonstrated little cutting edge in dangerous areas, making bad decisions regularly and a host of costly errors.
Ireland started by far the better of the two sides, putting their opponents under pressure in the infancy of the clash. The men in green were strong in the tackle and sharp in their passing, creating a few early openings that they were unable to fully capitalise on.
But they didn’t have to wait long before getting on the scoreboard, as Sexton kicked over a penalty with 10 minutes on the clock.
The Irish continued to be aggressive in the early exchanges, and they were beginning to force elementary mistakes from their opponents. The Pumas conceded another penalty as the clock ticked toward the 20-minute mark, and Sexton doubled Ireland’s advantage.
Nicolas Sanchez soon reduced the deficit, though, as he kicked over a close-range penalty. The Argentina crowd were up on their feet at that point, but not long after they were to be treated to something truly spectacular.
The Six Nations champions lost the ball inside their own half, and it was picked up by the elusive Sanchez who burst forward, selling a wonderful dummy to the Irish defence. He fed Montero who handed off a couple of Irish players before finishing superbly in the corner.
It stirred memories of a certain Jonah Lomu, as noted here by Dr. Tom Markham:
Sanchez added the extra points with a smart conversion, and the hosts were suddenly 10-6 ahead.
But this Irish side have shown on plenty of occasions that they are made of pretty stern stuff, and as you would expect, they came battling back.
They were awarded a penalty, opted for the line-out, and upon winning that, a maul. Driven forward by their imposing skipper, Paul O’Connell—who was making his 100th test appearance for Ireland—they pushed toward the Pumas’ try line, with Henry eventually touching down for the score.
It was a bit of a mess, truth be told, as you can see here courtesy of Sky Sports, but they all count!:
TRY! Chris Henry scores to regain the lead for Ireland. 11-10 they lead Argentina with four mins until HT pic.twitter.com/gFh4T241Id— Sky Sports Rugby (@SkySportsRugby) June 7, 2014
Sexton couldn’t add the extra points from a tight angle, but the Irish went into the half-time break with a slender 11-10 advantage.
After the interval, it was the visitors who were quickest off the mark once again. A slick move saw Sexton feed Luke Marshall, then Marshall return the favour before the Irish No. 10 finished superbly. His conversion shaved the outside of the post, but Ireland were 16-10 up.
Argentina looked to counter-attack and some smart kicking from deep saw the Pumas get in behind the Irish on a couple of occasions immediately after the concession of that try. But they were naive in their passing and squandered their dangerous territory. Their inexperience was compounded and punished in the 57th minute.
Andrew Trimble telegraphed a pass with Argentina up the pitch, and he had the simple task of strolling over the line to extend Ireland’s advantage. It was increased further by Sexton, who added the extras and put Ireland 23-10 up.
After that try, the Irish began to enjoy themselves, while Argentina heads went down. Darren Cave had what would have been a sumptuous try chalked off after a fluid move; Sky Sports provide us with an indication of just how close he was to scoring:
SO CLOSE! Ireland thought they'd extended their lead, but Darren Cave's leg was just in touch. Lead Argentina 26-10. pic.twitter.com/mQuHHZNDQ2— Sky Sports Rugby (@SkySportsRugby) June 7, 2014
But the Irish kept the scoreboard ticking over as Ian Madigan—a replacement for Sexton—slotted a penalty from close range. He added another three points a couple of minutes later to make the lead 19 points.
A flurry of changes late on saw the rhythm drift out of the game, and Ireland switched off very late on, allowing Tomas de la Vega to burst through their back line and bag another try, to which Sanchez added the extra points. The game finished 29-17 in favour of the visitors.
FT Argentina 17 Ireland 29 - A solid win for Ireland away at the depleted hosts. Reaction now on SS1. pic.twitter.com/thMj4YrwiL— Sky Sports Rugby (@SkySportsRugby) June 7, 2014
It’s difficult to see anything but a comfortable Ireland win in the series. They were far superior to the hosts in all areas on the field, in the line-out and in the scrum. Even when this Argentina side looked to put visitors under pressure—aside from some individual brilliance from Montero—they were able to snuff out easily.
Argentina just don’t look to be the same force without some of their key figures. They really missed the guile of Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Juan Martin Hernandez in the back row, and without that duo, it’s difficult to see the Pumas causing any major problems for this strong Irish defence.
Post-match reaction to follow.