Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Ireland rout just couldn't compete with Pumas for drama

Cian Healy of Ireland is tackled by Andrey Garbuzov of Russia during the IRB 2011 Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Russia at Rotorua International Stadium on September 25, 2011

I don’t know about you, but maybe it’s my northern hemisphere background. Whatever the reason, I confess here and now – the dogfight that was Argentina v Scotland in the World Cup this weekend was so much more interesting to me than the Ireland v Russia romp, even if 11 tries were scored in the latter and just one in the former.

For battling it out, for a grim yet compelling struggle, the Pumas game was essential viewing. Normally, I’m the first to applaud sides that spread the play, try to attack by keeping ball in hand and look for tries.

But when a game like the Irish match is so one-sided, it becomes a procession, a complete mismatch. Ireland got 9 tries but could easily have had 14. That was a joke.

By complete contrast, there was not a try in sight for most of the game in Wellington in the Pool B game. It was more like trench warfare with both sides, especially the Pumas, trying to claw out territory metre by metre.

You could say it was one dimensional and that would probably have been correct. But the conditions hardly dictated running rugby and Argentina played the way the elements demanded.

That was probably one criticism of Scotland; they tried to play too much rugby in the wrong part of the field. Had they worked field position and put maximum pressure on the Argentine line-out and defence, they might well have broken through.



Their efforts to pull the Pumas defence wide and out of position were commendable in the conditions..but also probably misguided.

You had to feel sorry for Scotland but share Argentina’s joy at the end. I know Felipe Contepomi personally and I can tell you, there is no nicer man, no greater gentleman playing the game today than the captain of Argentina.

He is a credit to his country and the game. And his late conversion kick of that stunning try by Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino was coolness personified.

Overall, it was an uneven weekend for the northern hemisphere sides. Wales meet Namibia in New Plymouth tonight and should take the predicted victory and bonus point for scoring four tries.

But France were all over the place against the All Blacks, not least in selection, and we won’t really know the true value of England’s runaway win over a Romania B team until they meet someone decent.

England look to be making progress with each match they play. But given the low quality of the opposition you have to postpone any proper judgement.

From today, we see the start of the final round of pool matches and start to say goodbye to certain teams. Namibia wind up their programme tonight against Wales and will be back home long before countries like England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Wales play their final games next weekend.

Japan finish their schedule on Tuesday, the USA on Wednesday. We’re getting close to the real business end of this Rugby World Cup.