Los Pumas prevailed in the first all-South American World Cup clash in Nantes
If you’ve been listening closely to World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin, you’ll know that if he has his way Last 16 ties will soon become a fixture of the Rugby World Cup. Talk of expanding to 24 teams with six pools of four would introduce an extra knockout round. But if you don’t want to wait until 2027 for that, fear not, because Argentina face Japan in a winner-takes-all quarter-final shoot-out next Sunday.
Michael Cheika’s men cruised past South American neighbours Chile in the Nantes sunshine, meaning the winner of their clash with the Brave Blossoms at the same location will qualify as runners-up behind England.
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Japan did their bit in the week by holding off a Samoa comeback, summoning some of that illustrious 2019 spirit in the process. But Argentina will be confident of booking their spot in the last eight after a clinical display at Stade de la Beaujoire.
Nicolas Sanchez marked his 100th cap with a slinky solo try and didn’t give Chile any breathing space with his relentless accuracy off the tee. Sanchez finished with a 20-point haul after nailing all six of his conversion attempts and adding one penalty to his own five-pointer.
That points haul was enough to take him past incoming Italy head coach Gonzalo Quesada (135) as Argentina’s record points scorer at Rugby World Cups.
The Pumas’ monstrous maul gave Juan Martin Gonzalez the first of his two tries before veteran hooker Agustin Creevy, the only other Argentine to reach a century of caps, also benefitted from an unstoppable platform.
Argentina quarter-final Japan decider
Argentina were 24-0 up in as many minutes but a yellow card for Rodrigo Isgro, for a high tackle on Rodrigo Fernandez, and some dogged work at the breakdown and resilience from Chile ensured there was no further score before the break.
Some deft handling, with Sanchez involved again, allowed Martin Bogado to steam through the Chile defence after the break before his fancy footwork turned Condores full-back Inaki Ayarza inside out to score.
Isgro made up for his misdemeanour by also getting on the scoresheet after storming onto an inside ball before wriggling over the line despite the best despairing Chilean efforts. Player of the Match Sanchez’s extras made it 31-0 with 33 minutes still to play.
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Chile thought they had got their first points of the afternoon after a sneaky lineout one-two saw hooker Augusto Bohme barged over only for TMO Ben Whitehouse to rule out the score for a forward pass, much to the audible disgust of the Condores faithful in the house.
Flanker Gonzalez, who too had a try ruled out late in the second half, eventually did get a second out on the right wing as Argentina took full advantage of an overlap.
Pablo Lemoine’s Chile finally got something to shout about as sheer will drove their maul over the Argentina line, replacement hooker Tomas Dussaillant dotting down. That roar was the biggest of the afternoon with some Chile players even gesticulating to the crowd to up the ante, proving just how much a solitary try means to these players as they bow out with plenty of credit after an inaugural World Cup campaign packed with spirit.
Perhaps Chile overextended to get their score as Argentina ran amok for the last seven minutes or so. First, Ignacio Ruiz scored from close range before replacement Santiago Carreras, after Sanchez had taken a well-earned ovation, darted down the left touchline, before converting his own try to have the final say.
When all was said and done the scoreline read 59-5, but it will matter little if Argentina don’t back it up next week with everything on the line.