If this was the appetiser it is leaving a bad taste in the mouth. The main course is likely to give us indigestion.
When the All Blacks come to town next weekend, they will not be so sloppy in the scrum, they will cause us as many problems in the line out and they will be just as difficult to break down. It’s hard to see where we can gain an advantage over them.
Admittedly they stuttered to victory against an abrasive England team in Twickenham earlier in the day. Fifteen unanswered English points were met with sixteen unanswered New Zealand points, starting in the thirty-eight minute. Anything you can do…
We should be worried. We will have to wait to hear the toll of the injuries, but it looks certain that Sean O’Brien will not be seen for some time. The guy can’t catch a break
The Irish gave away an early penalty in a half filled with them for both sides, the Argentinians getting warned several times for the frequency and Ireland for the late hits. Argentina took the first score with a long range effort from Sanchez.
In the opening phases Ireland tried to drive it out of 22 rather than kicking. Was there some fear of the blue back three? Was the plan to give them as little ball early in the game as possible? Well, the tactic cost them three points.
After the restart Ireland put huge pressure on the Pumas as they tried to get out of their own territory. O’Mahony caused penalty, latching on in the ruck. The decision from Johnny and Peter was to kick into the Argentinian half for a line out rather than even the scores.
In this opening period of pressure Johnny Sexton used a lot of flat passes rather than his trademark deep wraps. The pressure eventually tells and causes another penalty close to the line; Johnny kicks into the corner again for the line out. There is a real decision to go for tries today.
Another Irish line out close to the line went to the front but the Argentinians get in and sack. The Irish did get over the line, however, as when the ball came back to Irish hands a new maul formed and the Irish drove over the line, CJ Stander in possession. There were simply too many bodies in the way. The referee thinks went to the TMO with a new twist. First he made a decision, that the ball was held up, and asks the TMO whether there is any evidence to the contrary.
I think this is a positive move in general. Too often we have seen referees abdicating their responsibility to the TMO. For foul play, I hope the TMO will keep interrupting the referees, but we may start to see an improvement of on field decisions and less hand-holding by the off field officials.
The five meter scrum showed Ireland’s real strengths. In the first of several one sided scrums, Ireland got a penalty advantage. The ball squirted out the back and Marmion picked it up and darted overt the line. He had a good pair of hands to take it off the boot of the Argentinian scrum half. Ireland went in front 5-3.
Restarts are one of the most important parts of the game and Ireland got exposed here. A huge, high, hanging kick was stolen back from the kick off. Henderson got a lift but was badly positioned and Keith Earls was just to far away. The Pumas got possession and Ireland had to defend deep in their own territory. The pressure caused an offside from O’Mahony and gave the lead back to the visitors: 5-6.
The Irish restart can be difficult to deal with also and they recovered their next restart. We saw a few half-breaks from Addison and some patient controlled play to build the pressure, although the grubber kick from O’Mahony might have been better left for the backs. We saw the rash side of Keith Earls as he stuck a leg out at the full back, lucky to miss the trip as it would have drawn a penalty at the least. We end up with a line out on halfway.
If the Irish line out wobbled during the game, the defence was largely infallible. Some decent Argentinian waves of attack were held back. They eventually went for a towering high ball into the twenty-two. Stockdale was positioned well to recover, but the attacking Argentine player did just enough to put him off and cause a knock-on.
They scored a try from the resulting scrum. A nice move between the half-backs and both centres created just the hint of a gap between Sexton and Aki. There were great supporting players and Ireland looked all over the place. As they moved up to the five meter line their forwards took over for a few phases, but with the Irish scramble defence committing a lot of players to the break down we were exposed out wide. They moved it wide and the winger, Delguy only had to beat Rory Best to score. 5-11 with about eighteen minutes played.
We gained territory through some good play, holding the ball and forcing penalties, one after James Ryan was tackled in the air. The referee had the first of many words with the Argentinian captain. Sexton chose to go for a five metre line out with the resulting penalty kick.
We made a mess of this dangerous position. The aim was to shift the ball from Henderson, who caught towards the front of the line out, to Ryan, at the back, but the ball went to the deck. Scrum for Argentina.
Our dominance in the scrum emerged. We draw a penalty advantage after destroying their scrum, but kept playing, Sean O’Brien and James Ryan notable with some good carries to just under the posts. I lost count of how many new penalty advantages the ref called during this phase of play.
Bundee Aki had the two telling carries to break the try line. The first was when taking a lovely pop-pass from Sexton, just about read by the defence. It looked like Ireland might lose the ball as the Pumas defended well. Aki’s second carry came after the ball came back from a ruck awkwardly. He picked and scampered over the line. Not problem with the conversion this time: 12-11 and the seesaw tilts back the other way.
The half fizzled out a little with no further scores. Larmour had a mixed game catching high balls, missing some and dealing with others. This phase of the game was most notable for the injury to Sean O’Brien which saw him come off after receiving a knock directly on his wrist. The suspicion is that it is a break.
Leavy made a big difference when he came on. It is great to see him back in green. His abrasiveness in defence is scary; glad he is on our side. He got pinged by the ref early in the second half, but it was a call on the wrong player since he was on the deck at the time. Argentina kick to give themselves a two point lead.
Larmour’s mixed game under the high ball continued in the second half, but is bright when he gets his hands on the ball. In one useful carry he just ran out of space along the right touch line.
Marmion appeared to twist an ankle when Ireland had possession and territory. He hobbled along for a few phases before making a terrible pass, but Ireland had penalty advantage. Luke McGrath came on, hoping to continue his good form from Leinster and the game against the Italians last week. Sexton kicked the penalty to give Ireland back the lead: 18-17.
The referee gave another warning to the Argentinians. That’s four by my count, albeit there were gaps between them. You can probably understand him being reluctant to give a yellow card in a November international with not much at stake besides pride, but I would prefer consistency of refereeing in all matches.
Territory was becoming all important in this tight game with any indiscretion in your own half being punished by the long range kicking of Sanchez. Ireland began to play as much of the game in the Argentinian half as they could manage.
The Argentinian defence really showed up, causing all kinds of pain for the Irish. They simply could not get across through for a long time. They were in front because of scores taken from dominance in the scrum. Their line out was not performing. At least not until Devin Toner came on midway through the second half.
Amazingly there was not scrum after the break until the sixty-fifth minute. It drew and advantage, but in almost a carbon copy of the first try, the scrum half, McGrath, took the ball over the line, dodging around the Matera in the process. O’Mahony scooped the ball up and set him on his way, and the conversion was easy, right under the posts.
Now with a two score advantage the writing was on the walls. 25-17
As the game drifted towards a close, Ireland played some nice keep ball, gradually advancing against a powerful defence. There was some inevitability about them. Even when being forced back, they remained calm in possession. All that possession in the Puma half told, gaining them a penalty from which they extended their lead to 28-17.
With five minutes left in the game the Argentinians finally got some decent possession, a line out deep in our half, and they set the maul up. With Rory Best off the pitch, O’Mahony was acting captain and he played the captain’s role well, getting his hands on the ball and ripping it free. That was their last chance really.
It’s hard to say this was the best preparation for next week, especially with some hard knocks shipped. We will await the team news announcements this week with anxiety.