Ireland won their first Test match on Argentinian soil, beating the Pumas 17-29 in Resistencia on Saturday. Here are some of the talking points from the game...
Ireland won in Argentina for the first time
Ireland made eight changes to the team that won the Six Nations in Paris earlier this season, yet they won their first Test on Argentinian soil. Captain Paul O’Connell rued the fact that assets of their performance could’ve been better on the day – the skipper said a few tackles were missed that should’ve been made, and a few balls were spilled forward – yet new combinations proved their worth while the old stalwarts put in a decent shift. Joe Schmidt said: “I thought Robbie Diack and Jordi Murphy worked very hard in the first half, and Iain Henderson is growing all the time. Paul O’Connell is a massive guy for us, as is Rory Best, and Andrew Trimble continued in his good form despite taking a dangerous knock early on.”
There is life after BOD
Darren Cave had the unenviable job of following in Brian O’Driscoll’s footsteps, and though he missed a couple of tackles his otherwise solid performance ensured that he’s still on the list of ‘possible replacements.’ Elsewhere, Zebo’s BOD-esque offload to Cave, which could’ve led to a try if not for a foot in touch, will have given Schmidt something to mull over, and the pack had a good day at the office. The front row of Mike Ross, Best and Jack McGrath held the scrum up well during some crucial moments, and a few lineouts were turned over under O’Connell’s watch. Considering the short amount of time this team had to gel together, Schmidt and co can be pleased with the result.
The Pumas took the game to Ireland
Most of Argentina’s team had the visiting media scratching their heads when their names were announced earlier this week, yet the Consur Cup crew put up one hell of a fight. The Pumas were without their European stars, yet their defence was strong and they stopped Ireland from getting into a proper rhythm, putting in a performance that bodes well for their World Cup campaign next year and beyond. Argentina traditionally have a strong set piece, yet it was their backs who showed moments of flare during this Test match, and Manuel Montero’s finish for the hosts’ first-half try suggests he will become a household name one day.
The game is growing
A healthy crowd watched the game at the Estadio Centenario, which is usually a low league football club’s pitch in one of Argentina’s soccer heartlands. Playing this match in Buenos Aires would’ve been the easy option for both teams, but the Unión Argentina de Rugby (UAR) should be applauded for spreading rugby’s message. The ground staff have worked tirelessly for the last few days to get the ground ready for Test match standard. Just 24 hours before kick-off, they were working around the clock to install big screens at each end of the ground, make advertising boards look respectable, and put covering around the floodlights’ posts at the side of the pitch. However, the turf itself resembled a patchwork quilt, and though O’Connell insisted it held up better than it looked like it did, some work will need to be done if the UAR want to use this stadium for 2023 World Cup purposes, in the event that they win their bid, which Ireland also have their eyes on.
Player to referee
It’s been just four years since Glen Jackson was barking at the officials from his out-half position at Saracens, but the Kiwi is now in his fourth year of refereeing, having bucked the trend of former players going into punditry or coaching. Today’s game was uneventful from an officiating point of view, though no news is good news when you’re the man in the middle. Lets hope he inspires more players to take up the whistle…