Ireland nervously finished off their Guinness Series with a win over a cornered but defiant Argentinian side. Ireland failed to continue their first half exploits, gifting Argentina points in the second half, but managed to come away with the win regardless.
Joe Schmidt blooded a number of players throughout this November period and will have had a chance to see how his wider squad perform on the main stage.
Here are some winners and losers from tonight’s game.
1) Jacob Stockdale
The Ulster winger continued his fantastic season in style with an impressive tracking try in the opening half and a wonderful finish early in the second. Stockdale earned lots of plaudits for his play alongside Ulster’s Charles Piutau, profiting from his line breaks and creativity. The 21-year-old has carried his support play into the international fold, timing his runs to near perfection alongside Sexton. He exploited the gap and set up the try which opened the flood gates against South Africa and he brought that detail under speed to the fore once again against Argentina. Although quiet in the second half, Stockdale’s first 50 minutes earned him the ‘Man of the Match’ award.
2) Irish Scrum
Cian Healy’s return to the top end of international rugby was all but confirmed in tonight’s victory against the Pumas. In the opening stages of the game, Ireland’s scrum utterly dominated what was once Argentina’s most potent weapon. Devin Toner is integral at the set piece and it was reassuring to see his absence from the starting lineup didn’t hinder the front rows potency.
3) Rob Kearney
What a performance from the Leinster man. Kearney looked back to his confident and fit self in Ireland’s win against Argentina. The 31-year-old has had a torrid time of injuries in the last number of years. However, for the first time in a long time, the fullback looked mentally and physically deserving of his place in this Irish team. His counterattacking and work in the backfield was what was most impressive as his solidity under the highball has always been consistent. For now, the Leinster man needs to simply focus on remaining injury free because as tonight showed, he still has plenty left to give for his country.
4) Ramiro Moyano
The Argentinian winger deserves a place in the winners list as one of the only redeeming aspects of Argentina’s display at Lansdowne Road. The Pumas managed to hold onto possession and make inroads into Irish territory off a number of powerful carries and breaks from the 27-year-old, who also made a length-of-the-field run relieving the pressure as Ireland swarmed on Argentina under their own posts in the final minutes. Moyano finished off his sides performance with a try in the final play of the game which was thoroughly deserved.
1) World Rugby’s Scheduling
Any kind of tournament or list of fixtures that results in the once staunch Puma side arriving in Ireland psychologically and physically exhausted is wrong, blatantly wrong. If teams are to have a fair chance to compete then World Rugby must once again look to shorten the rugby season. There is no eventuality in which shortening the overall rugby season will not have a financial impact. However, if international rugby is to remain as the pinnacle of the game, World Rugby must investigate and re-evaluate the current format.
2) Tomas Lezana
Although the Argentinian pack failed to deliver as a whole, Lezana seemed to lag behind in particular. The 23-year-old failed to establish a physical presence in both attack and defense.
Even during Argentina’s second-half fight, Lezana just couldn’t stamp his presence on the game and failed to make a noticeable impact in Argentina’s comeback.
3) Ireland’s Second Half Temperament
Although Ireland returned from the changing rooms in barnstorming fashion, they failed to hold onto possession in the second half. Argentina’s early return in the second half seemed to work in some form but Ireland looked to take their foot off the pedal and their intensity allowed the Pumas back into the game. Against South Africa, Ireland were quiet in the opening quarter of the second half but managed to refocus. Tonight against Argentina, Ireland failed to refocus their attention and carry on their try scoring efforts.
Joe Schmidt will have to look at Ireland’s mentality after they allowed Argentina to work their way back into the game in the second half.
The result ended up being much tighter after Ireland took their foot off the gas against an Argentinian side that is capable of competing to the 80th minute.