Pumas fall short of win but continue to earn respect
Argentina again fell short of victory in their first season in the company of the southern hemisphere’s superpowers on Saturday but Australia coach Robbie Deans was among those who joined the growing ranks of their admirers.
The Wallabies, the last champions of the Tri-Nations competition which was replaced by the Rugby Championship with the addition of Argentina this season, were forced to come from behind in the last 20 minutes to beat the Pumas 23-19.
Any fears that the Argentines would be uncompetitive in their maiden campaign again proved baseless as their physical presence, tactical nous and ability to capitalise on opponents’ errors again rattled a traditional rugby powerhouse.
“They are looking to establish themselves in the comp and they’ve done that, they’ve earnt respect,” Deans said in a pitchside interview at Skilled Park.
“They’re a great side, a side that plays with a lot of pride and a lot of ambition,” he added.
“They have a lot of potential and this experience is going to be good for them.
“Not just this team but players back in Argentina will see what these guys are doing and they’ll want to be part of that dream and the whole country will be much better for it.”
The Pumas lost their opener 27-6 to South Africa in Cape Town but were unlucky not to come away with more than a 16-16 draw in the return match against the Springboks in Mendoza the following week.
They held world champions New Zealand for the first hour of their third contest before losing 21-5 in Wellington last week and two tries in two minutes early in the second half on Saturday scared the daylights out of Australia.
Argentina’s spirited displays on the road will have given them more and more confidence that they can grab a win in their first season, especially as their last two fixtures are at home where they have traditionally been much stronger.
Deans was, of course, more concerned about his own team, who came from behind to win for the second week in a row after beating the Springboks 26-19 in Perth.
“We had some opportunities to put the game away a few times and we didn’t but we fought back and that’s a credit to our guys,” he said.
“I wouldn’t underestimate what we had here tonight, I mean the Argentinians are a good side, no team has played with consistency against them.”
Australia captain and lock Nathan Sharpe, who won his 109th cap in the first test played in his Gold Coast home town, was also impressed by the visitors.
“I think collectively as a team they attack the ball at the breakdown, they know when to attack and flood the breakdown and they do it well,” he said.
“Their low tackling is very good and their set pieces from their line out and scrums are very good as well.
“They bide their time and they set themselves up, I mean we saw what happened in that two to three minute spell when they put it together and they are dangerous.”