A pressure-packed arm wrestle in atrocious conditions ended in high drama with Argentina defeating Scotland 13-12 in their Pool B match.
They clinched the winning try through substitute Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino with six minutes to play and then held out a resolute Scotland in a nail-biting finish.
The match began at a ferocious pace as these teams were meeting in a virtual Pool B knockout clash – the loser was going to find it very difficult to get through to the quarter-finals.
Scotland showed their intention to run the ball early and play an up-tempo game but it was 20 minutes before Argentine captain Felipe Contepomi opened the scoring a penalty straight in front.
Scotland continued to run at the Pumas with wing Max Evans making some good breaks but Argentina’s scrambling defence held them out and good work at the breakdown brought turnovers.
Territory see-sawed until Scottish pressure forced Argentina into defending on their own goal line. A lineout won against the throw brought another attack from the Scots which was again battered away by scrambling defence.
But the Scots refused to slow their tempo and a scrum penalty won right on the 22 gave Paterson a kick that he landed for Scotland’s first points.
Argentina was struggling against the hammering from the Scots and several injuries, most notably to number 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and tighthead prop Juan Figallo who had to be replaced, wasn’t helping.
A long-range penalty attempt by Scotland fly half Ruaridh Jackson from just inside halfway just snuck over to give Scotland a 6-3 lead at the break.
Los Pumas tried to level things up quickly at the start of the second half with a drop goal attempt from full back Martin Rodriguez but he fell well short, his second missed attempt for the match.
Evans continued to trouble Argentina who remained under pressure and were still troubled by injury worries with the game going on around players being treated on the ground.
The rain had become heavier making ball handling a lottery and the surface slippery. Mistakes were coming on both sides as the pressure mounted with Scotland still running at the Pumas, whose scrambling defence at times was extraordinary.
Both sides pushed forward but a charge down by Scotland’s Graeme Morrison led to an incursion put Chris Paterson close enough for a drop goal attempt after 57 minutes but it went left.
The restart gave the Pumas a chance with an offside penalty 40 metres out missed left by Contepomi.
Both teams kicked in an attempt to gain territory until Paterson spilled a high ball that led to a penalty from a scrum for Argentina that Contepomi put through from 30 metres to level the scores with minutes to play.
This had the Scots piling the pressure back on and a mistake from the restart got them within drop goal distance and fly half Jackson was this time on target as the Scots dragged back the advantage.
Yet another restart and the pressure this time coming from the Pumas leading to another penalty from about 30 metres but Contepomi’s shot bounced off the post.
Dan Parks came on to replace Paterson and his first touch was a kick that put them just five metres from the Argentine line. From the lineout Parks put over a drop goal that left Argentina needing a converted try to win it.
Up stepped Amorosino, who had just come off the bench. He received the ball on halfway and sliced through four defenders down the right to go all the way. Contepomi converted to give Argentina a one-point lead with six minutes left.
Despite several scares, including a missed drop goal by Parks, Argentina held on to win.
Match Stat Attack:
– This is the second time a RWC 2011 match has been won by one point. The first time was also in Wellington in the final match on a Sunday when South Africa beat Wales two weeks ago.
– Argentina were 12-6 down before scoring the try and conversion which won them the match. It was only the second time they had come back from six points or more behind in a RWC match and the first time since RWC 1999 when they recovered from 13 points down to beat Samoa 32-16.
– Argentina have now won five of their past six RWC matches against Six Nations opposition.
– Only 32 tries have been scored in Pool B matches at RWC 2011, 10 fewer than Pool D, 12 fewer than Pool C and 20 fewer than Pool A.
– Scotland scored two drop goals in a RWC match for the first time.
– It was the first time two players from the same team had scored drop goals in a RWC match since Argentina’s Gonzalo Quesada and Ignacio Corleto did so against Ireland at RWC 2003. Coincidentally, in that match only one point separated the teams, but on that occasion Argentina lost.
– Martín Rodríguez missed attempts at a penalty and two drop goals. Rodríguez has now missed 11 attempts at goal, the most of any player at RWC 2011.
– This was the second match at RWC 2011 in which fewer than 10 points were scored in the first half. The first also involved Argentina, against England.
– No match at RWC 2011 has waited longer for its first score than Argentina v Scotland (19 minutes). The previous longest wait was 18 minutes for Australia v Italy
– This is the fourth RWC 2011 match and the second involving Scotland in which it took more than 15 minutes for the first score.
– Chris Paterson has now scored 134 points at RWCs and needs one more to overtake Argentina’s Gonzalo Quesada and move into sixth place on the all-time list.
– Scotland have now lost their third match at four of the past five RWCs.
– Nothing has been decided in this pool yet and it is possible the top three teams could all finish on the same number of points.