Argentina proved far too strong for Ireland in the Millennium Stadium.
Ireland’s World Cup ambitions have come to a shuddering halt this afternoon against Argentina. The Pumas once more illustrated to those who wish to pigeon hole them as a forward orientated team that they can open opponents up with pace and no little skill.
Ireland will lament the injuries suffered to Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony, Johnny Sexton and the suspension inflicted upon Sean O’Brien. However Argentina were brilliant, and showed that they may even be contenders for the title.
1. Argentina’s Opening Quarter
Few sides could have lived with the pace Argentina brought to the opening quarter of the game. Indeed in their opening game with the All Blacks, Richie McCaw and company could not cease the remorseless Pumas.
In both games, Argentina brought their trademark power but have added pace and subtlety out wide. From the beginning the Pumas moved the ball wide, finding space between the tram lines. How they created that space was reminiscent of New Zealand, by the manner in which they fixed defenders before moving the ball.
This had the effect of negating Ireland’s drift defence, leaving the likes of Juan Imhoff and Matías Moroni one on one with their opposite numbers.
2. Argentina’s Physicality
Although Ireland were always going to struggle in the physicality stakes without Peter O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien, Argentina were very quick to impose themselves on the game.
In the early minutes, Ireland’s main ball carrier, Iain Henderson, was stopped on the gain line by a massive hit. Not only did Argentina bring Henderson down, but they also won a penalty after the second row was penalised for holding on.
Pablo Matera led his team in this regard, leading his backrow into every contact and carrying the ball over the gain line with purpose.
The pace at which Argentina cleaned out at the breakdown was also remarkable. Hitting rucks with incredibly low body positions and from depth was once again reminiscent of New Zealand. Argentina’s technique has Graham Henry’s finger prints all over it.
However Argentina can be accused over being too aggressive after conceding 15 penalties.
3. Should Ramiro Herrera Have Been Sent Off?
During the first half Ramiro Herrera received a silly yellow card for a late hit on Keith Earls. His sin binning came when the Pumas were completely dominant at 17-0 and allowed brought Ireland back into the game.
However it was the manner in which he attempted to clean out a ruck in the 51st minute that has become the subject for some debate.
While I believe that the front row should not have received a second yellow card for the incident, the referee scrutinised the incident alongside his officials.
With only three points between the sides at the time, on another day, Herrera’s indiscipline could have cost the Pumas a place in the semi final.
4. Ireland’s Defence
Like all northern hemisphere sides, Ireland attempt to narrow the field in defence. They tend to push up and attempt to stop ball carriers in midfield and slow the ball returning to the opposition.
However today, Ireland’s line speed was very slow. This is not something unique to this game, but has been a feature of Ireland’s play since their summer warm up games. Indeed, but for a Peter O’Mahony tackle, Ireland almost came unstuck against Italy for this reason.
The result was that Argentina found it very easy to cross the gain line when they attacked through the likes of Pablo Matera. However unlike each of their Six Nations opponents, Argentina looked to move the ball wide and expose Ireland’s narrow defensive line.
Indeed for each Puma try, Argentina’s winger were left one on one against their opposite numbers.
5. How Weak Is Northern Hemisphere Rugby
This World Cup has illustrated the gap between the northern and southern hemispheres. Since England won the World Cup in 2003, the southern hemisphere sides have put a huge focus on pace, footwork and basic passing.
In contrast, the northern hemisphere sides continue to place an emphasis on power and size. For some time now it has been argued that the French team are not as fit as their Six Nations counter parts. This was illustrated last night when All Black forwards were beating French backs for both speed and movement.
Similarly England were blown away by the movement of Bernard Foley and the Wallaby back line. Today the same transpired, with Argentina looking to run the ball as opposed to kicking it on numerous opportunities. How quickly the Pumas have transitioned from a northern type game plan to southern one is remarkable.
Contrast the improvements made by Argentina since their inclusion in the Rugby Championship with that of Italy in the Six Nations.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
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