The scrap between North and South America goes the Pumas' way as they put the Eagles to flight in Kumagaya. Victory secures third place in Pool C and qualification for 2023
Played – 9
Argentina wins – 9
USA wins – 0
Did You Know?
- Blaine Scully became the third USA skipper to score a RWC try, after Dan Lyle (1999) and Chris Wyles (2015). All of his previous 13 Test tries were against Tier Two teams.
- Pumas back-row Juan Manuel Leguizamon, playing in his fourth World Cup, was chaired off after making his 87th and final Test appearance.
- This was Argentina’s biggest win since beating Japan 54-20 in Tokyo in November 2016.
- USA No 8 Cam Dolan won his 50th cap – you can read an exclusive Q&A with him in the current issue of Rugby World magazine.
Related: Rugby World Cup Fixtures
In a nutshell
It was billed as a play-off for third place but in reality it was no contest, Argentina brushing the US Eagles aside by seven tries to three to finish their Pool C campaign behind England and France. In doing so, they secured their place at the 2023 World Cup in France and condemned USA to the qualifying route.
The Pumas gave youth its head and, having established a healthy 19-5 half-time advantage, they let loose in the second half, taking the game away from USA with a three-try burst in the third quarter. Juan Cruz Mallia notched a double and co-centre Jeronimo de la Fuente finished a sumptuous attack from deep to put the game to bed at 40-5.
Replacement scrum-half Gonzalo Martin Bertranou got the final try, although there was nearly a final five-point flourish from wing Bautista Delguy, whose mesmerising run from behind his own line straight after half-time had set the mood for what was to follow.
The loose, sevens-style play of the second period suited Argentina, who by no-side had racked up 15 line breaks. The Americans were left chasing shadows and Gary Gold made a forlorn figure in his coaches’ box, his team’s campaign continuing in abject disappointment.
USA were unable to string together meaningful phases and kicked the ball away too often. They were caught offside frequently in the early stages, giving Argentina easy yardage, their lineout faltered and their missed tackle count reached an alarming height – just four shy of a half-century. Rather too much rests on the shoulders of their Sale fly-half AJ MacGinty.
They at least had the consolation of scoring three tries: MacGinty’s grubber put skipper Blaine Scully in just before the turnaround, Paul Lasike crashed over on the hour and Scully crossed again in the final play. Unlike his first effort, he didn’t celebrate. The Eagles’ chance at redemption comes on Sunday in their final pool match against Tonga.
Fly-half Nicolas Sanchez had returned to the Pumas side and his try in the 18th minute, after he collected Mellia’s scoring pass, had set the ball rolling. Joaquin Tuculet, one of the older brigade and making his first start of this tournament, then latched on to a Sanchez chip that eluded Mike Te’o before ducking under Lasike’s high tackle to grab his second.
It was all too easy for them after that.
Related: Rugby World Cup TV Coverage
Juan Cruz Mallia marked his first Test start for Argentina with an accomplished display, sparking the try feast by sending Nicolas Sanchez to the line for the opener.
The Jaguares centre hadn’t even featured internationally this year but seized his opportunity here, making a team-topping 17 carries and 164 metres. One mistimed tackle aside on opposite number Bryce Campbell, it was hard to find fault with the 23-year-old.
The reaction – Argentina
Head coach Mario Ledesma: “They were playing for someone really special today (Juan Manuel Leguizamon, retiring after 87 caps) and I’m really happy that he had the farewell he deserved. Qualifying for France wasn’t in our heads – we wanted to play better, we wanted to do on the field what we practised and to do it for him.
“We expected the younger players to step up today and they delivered. Obviously, we are out of the World Cup but, with those guys, the future is looking good for Argentine rugby.
On scoring seven tries: “In the last few months we’ve been trying to have a good combination with fly-half and backs and that worked well. It was a great combination with everyone, they worked together as a team; that is how you win a match and how we want to win a match.”
On his future: “It is really important to have a good perspective in our future. But we have just played our match, we had a red card in England match, so we need to look back on many things, we can’t just look forward in one way.
“As coach I work on tactics and skill, control player emotions and have cohesion in the team and bring in other forces from outside as well. We need to go out of our country and play many matches to improve and to watch other sports to learn from them.”
Argentina captain Pablo Matera: “It was a tough game, a physical game from the USA guys. We’re happy to get the win in our last game, it was important. Also a special mention to Juan Manuel Leguizamon, it was his last game with this jersey and he’s the man today and we’re very happy to give him a victory in his last game.
“We played three matches and couldn’t show what we practised for 80 minutes of each game. We lost to England and couldn’t make it to the quarter-final and that was disappointing.”
On his future: “Everything has passed by so quickly, so we are going back to Argentina and then we can gather ourselves and analyse objectively. During this tournament I did not have a moment to think about what happens but it’s going to be a change for me.”
The reaction – USA
Head coach Gary Gold: “I’m disappointed in the outcome but really proud of the effort. I think even the biggest cynic could see how hard the guys tried and how hard they worked.
“I thought the first 20 minutes was very, very good, very similar to the French game, when we put ourselves in a really good position. We had an unbelievable opportunity to take advantage of the scoreboard and we didn’t, unfortunately, score in that moment. That’s how rugby works. It’s a game of momentum.
“I think that’ll come with the more time we spend together and the more time we play together. I do believe we’ve improved game on game.
“I thought our lineout was okay but out scrum took a bit of a strain, mysteriously. It’s difficult to play when your set-pieces aren’t going forward.
“Right until the 81st minute, showing the fight and tenacity that we did, made me very proud. But we’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of improving. That’s why this was a great group for us. I’m not feeling like that right now. But on reflection, it will be a very profitable exercise. This is what we want, to play against three teams who are top-ten teams in the world.
“In all three games, we have put up good performances for periods of time – we just haven’t lasted for 80 minutes. Tonga are a good team but we want to try to finish on a high.”
On the possibility of the USA hosting RWC 2027: “To see the Rugby World Cup in Japan has really struck a chord. If USA were to be awarded the 2027 World Cup, you would see similar strides in America to what you’ve seen in Japan.”
USA captain Blaine Scully: “I think in the first half we found a foothold. We were able to have a pretty good amount of possession inside the 22 and were really resilient. We were able to weather some storms and create a bit of pressure and we ended up getting that try in the first half. We were in a really good position to climb back into the game.
“We started the second half really well, we won the kick-off and had a scrum and ended up really deep inside their territory. We ended up turning the ball over and suddenly we were back deep inside our 22. That’s a momentum shift that ends up being difficult to weather.”
“We did some good things with the ball but we also missed some opportunities and in the World Cup you have to take every chance you get because they don’t come around too often. So credit to Argentina. They showed what a dangerous team they are today.”
Argentina: Joaquin Tuculet; Bautista Delguy, Juan Cruz Mallia, Jeronimo de La Fuente (Matías Moroni 60), Santiago Carreras; Nicolas Sanchez (Benjamin Urdapilleta 59), Felipe Ezcurra (Gonzalo Martin Bertranou 56); Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro (Mayco Vivas 52), Julian Montoya (Agustin Creevy 52), Santiago Medrano (Enrique Pieretto Heiland 52), Guido Petti (Tomas Lezana 57), Matias Alemanno, Pablo Matera (capt, Marcos Kremer 49), Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Rodrigo Bruni.
Tries: Sanchez 18, Tucalet 24, 34, Mallia 43, 48, de la Fuente 55, Bertranou 71. Cons: Sanchez 5, Urdapilleta.
USA: Mike Te’o (Will Hooley 49); Blaine Scully (capt), Bryce Campbell, Paul Lasike (Martin Iosefo 2-7), Marcel Brache; AJ MacGinty, Ruben de Haas (Nate Augspurger 59); Eric Fry (Olive Kilifi 49), Joe Taufete’e (Dylan Fawsitt 49), Titi Lamositele (Paul Mullen 49), Nate Brakeley (Ben Landry 56), Greg Peterson, Tony Lamborn (Ben Pinkelman 56), Hanco Germishuys, Cam Dolan.
Tries: Scully 38, 80, Lasike 59. Con: MacGinty.
RELATED RUGBY WORLD CUP CONTENT
Los Pumas failed to make it to the…
The Americans have been building in the right…
Follow our Rugby World Cup homepage which we update regularly with news and features.
Finally, don’t forget to follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.