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Rugby World Cup: Daniel Hourcade focuses on battle for third after refusing to blast ref over Australia defeat

By George Hook

Published 26/10/2015

Off you go: Argentina’s lock Tomas Lavanini (centre) receives a controversial yellow card from referee Wayne Barnes
Off you go: Argentina’s lock Tomas Lavanini (centre) receives a controversial yellow card from referee Wayne Barnes

Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade refused to blame referee Wayne Barnes for the Pumas' 29-15 World Cup defeat to Australia, despite the controversial yellow card for Tomas Lavanini.

Barnes received resounding boos at Twickenham for sin-binning lock Lavanini for a clumsy low tackle on Israel Folau, with BBC pundit Jonathan Davies branding the yellow card a "pathetic decision".

Adam Ashley-Cooper's hat-trick powered Australia into a World Cup final with defending champions New Zealand, but ever-dangerous Argentina would have been forgiven for blasting Barnes' officiating.

Hourcade kept his counsel in defeat, however, even refusing to question whether Drew Mitchell's pass for Ashley-Cooper's hat-trick score was thrown forward.

"There was a hit impact with the other player and he couldn't quite close his arms around the other player," Hourcade said of Lavanini's tackle on Folau.

"So I don't think there was no intention not to make a tackle.

"But they did the analysis and came to their conclusion and we have to respect their decision."

Lavanini's team-mate Juan Martin Fernández Lobbe disagreed with referee Barnes' decision, however.

He said: "It was a perfect tackle. If this was a yellow card, then last week against Ireland he should have had three yellow cards.

"That's that way Lavanini tackles. He's very aggressive, he goes low. It's always tough to defend with 14, and they managed to score. It's very very hard playing catch-up rugby at this level."

And Hourcade insisted Argentina would have won the semi-final had they managed to breach Australia's robust defence, the Wallabies' ferocity without the ball spearheaded by a breakdown masterclass from David Pocock.

Ashley-Cooper's match-securing hat-trick score came courtesy of a pass from winger Mitchell that many felt could have been forward, but Hourcade stuck to time-honoured rugby traditions of respecting the officials' authority.

"Those things happen in the game. It may have been, it may have not," Hourcade said of the pass for Ashley-Cooper's third try.

"It's in the past and we just need to accept it and move on. The referee's decisions cannot be questioned.

"If we had scored a try at any point I think we could have won the game, but Australia played very well and congratulations to them for their win."

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Hourcade met the final whistle with tears at Argentina's exit, but quickly refocused for Friday night's third-place play-off against South Africa.

Springboks boss Heyneke Meyer branded contesting the third-place match "like kissing your sister", but Hourcade insisted Argentina will throw everything at victory.

"The players were very committed, very engaged. They never gave up looking for that try," Hourcade said.

"We feel a huge pain because we were very excited and emotional.

"But I feel very proud about these players and I think it hurts more for them to lose than it hurts me.

"I can't remember if I was crying or not, but I was feeling for them because they gave everything. I really congratulate them because they left their lives out there.

"For us, the third-place play-off means a lot. Every game means a lot. In every game, we're trying to reach the top.

"It would be fantastic to beat such a great team as South Africa if we could manage it."

Argentina shipped two tries in the first 10 minutes - a product of nerves and forcing their attacking hand.

Hourcade said he would tell his men to go for the jugular all over again, were the Pumas able to replay the match.

"They gave it all, they left empty," Hourcade said.

"I would play the same plan because this is what I always wanted. This team has always tried to attack, sometimes we've managed it and sometimes we haven't.

"But I think we are on the right path. This is what we're looking for."

Pumas captain Agustin Creevy appeared nonplussed by Springboks boss Meyer's comments on the third-place battle, before pledging to fight for fitness.

Hooker Creevy lasted just half an hour before trudging out of the semi-final, never fully over a leg problem sustained in the 43-20 last-eight win over Ireland.

"I don't know why he said that," Creevy said of Meyer's comments. "I'd rather be third than fourth.

"We will not be in the World Cup final so our next goal will be to finish third. I don't know if I'll be ready. We have to see."

Belfast Telegraph

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