By Katie Field, Rugby World writer
In a nutshell
ALL EXPECTATIONS of a close match were blown away in the first half as Ireland raced to a 24-9 lead with some bold, enterprising rugby. With eight minutes to go the half-century looked to be on the cards as they led 46-12 thanks to seven tries, but Ireland took their foot off the gas and allowed Argentina to grab two late consolation scores. It looked like a game too far for the tourists, who have had the busiest year in their history after being admitted to the Southern Hemisphere’s new Rugby Championship.
Ireland were superior up front and absolutely ruthless about taking their scoring chances. This record win against the Pumas guarantees Ireland a top-eight seeding for the 2015 World Cup when the draw takes place on 3 December.
Ireland scored three good tries in the first 21 minutes but allowed Argentina two penalties, so were still within touching distance at 19-6 up as the half-hour mark approached. The Pumas looked like narrowing the gap even further as they attacked inside the Ireland 22 but the home side held firm and conceded just a penalty, making the score 19-9 instead of a possible 19-13. From the re-start, Ireland launched another attack which Simon Zebo rounded off for their fourth try and at 24-9 up they were suddenly almost out of sight.
Craig Gilroy caught the eye from the outset, popping up all over the place in attack, stepping, darting and sprinting and scoring a fine opening try. It was an eye-catching Test debut from the Ulster wing. Peter O’Mahony had an outstanding game at blindside but the Man of the Match for his work at the set pieces and his major contributions in attack and defence was lock Donnacha Ryan.
Room for improvement
Argentina looked tired after their busy year but there were still a couple of critical areas they will be disappointed with. Firstly the lineout – they had lost six on their own throw against France the week before and lost two out of two in the first half in Dublin.
The Pumas’ defence was also too passive – they stood off and drifted and dropped off tackles as Ireland came flying at them in numbers.
Ireland were rarely found wanting. They scored 39 points in the first 53 minutes but just seven more thereafter, as they lost their shape a little and Argentina improved. The host of replacements that came on in the closing stages disrupted their patterns but the game was won by then.
In quotes – winners
Ireland coach Declan Kidney: “You never, in your wildest dreams, think you will score that number of tries against Argentina… but if I say this was the complete performance I’ll be out of a job. There’s always things to be done.”
In quotes – losers
Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe: “That was a sad way to end the season. Rugby is usually won by the team that wants it most and we were over-run in every aspect. Now that we have 12 games a year together we will continue to improve.”
Argentina ended up with 53% of the territory and an equal share of possession, but they missed 17 tackles in the first half as Ireland ran 235m in that period to get up an unstoppable head of steam. Ireland beat 18 defenders and made six clean breaks and won 100% of their mauls.
IRELAND: Simon Zebo; Tommy Bowe (Fergus McFadden 74), Keith Earls, Gordon D’Arcy, Craig Gilroy; Jonathan Sexton (Ronan O’Gara 72), Conor Murray (Eoin Reddan 72); Cian Healy (David Kilcoyne 74), Richardt Strauss (Sean Cronin 74), Mike Ross (Michael Bent 68), Donnacha Ryan, Mike McCarthy (Donncha O’Callaghan 63), Peter O’Mahony (Iain Henderson 72), Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip (captain).
Tries: Gilroy, Sexton (2), Strauss, Zebo, Bowe (2). Cons: Sexton 3, O’Gara 1. Pen: Sexton
ARGENTINA: Juan Martin Hernandez; Gonzalo Camacho, Marcelo Bosch, Santiago Fernandez, Juan Imhoff (Manuel Montero 54); Nicolas Sanchez (Gonzalo Tiesi 22-25, 61), Martin Landajo (Nicolas Vergallo 69); Marcos Ayerza (Nahuel Lobo 69), Eusebio Guinazu (Agustin Creevy 57), Maximiliano Bustos, Manuel Carizza, Julio Farias Cabello, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), Juan Manuel Leguizamon (Tomas Leonardi 55), Leonardo Senatore (Francisco Gomez Kodela 65), Tomas Vallejos, .
Tries: Leonardi, Fernandez Lobbe. Cons: Hernandez 2. Pens: Sanchez, 4
Sin-bin: Bustos 63 min
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa).