It’s not often you use the term ‘scrape’ to describe a 22 point victory, but Uruguay were Argentina’s equal for the vast majority of a bruising encounter. A poor try conceded barely 30 seconds after kickoff and two more in the last five minutes blew up the scoreline disproportionally in favour of Los Jaguares. Of course rugby is an 80 minute game, but if points were awarded on effort the final tally might have been reversed.
It was Juan Ignacio Brex who burst through the line at the first opportunity and fed Franco Sábato for a runaway score with the Uruguayans still rubbing the sleep from their eyes. Brex nearly created a double soon after but for a knock-on, and in such rampant form it should have been an imperative that he be given the ball more often. As it was his centre partner Joaquin Paz, confusing the commentators by lining up at no12, took it upon himself to take the ball on. Given his effectiveness it’s hard to fault him, but on one more than one occasion he might have been inclined to look to his outside support rather than tuck and foray.
After Uruguay settled in, led by the heroics of their tireless back row, Matías Arocena nailed two penalty goals to give them a foothold, the second coming as Tomás Lezena was binned for repeat infringements. Argentina seemed to snap back into life at the sight of bright yellow, and forced their way into scoring position but unable to break the line. A brilliant bit of footwork by Paz, creeping in to take a short ball off a ruck, caught the inside defenders unawares and put his team back in the lead. Román Miralles added a penalty on the stroke of halftime to give them a little more breathing room.
The stilted attack of Los Jaguares re-appeared from the dressing room and with the frustration mounting after repeated mistakes, some overly conspicuous skullduggery caught the eye of the officials and Lucas Martínez was sent to the naughty box to cool down. Both sides continued to fly into the breakdowns, determined to stretch the referee’s patience even further, but neither got any purchase on the scoreboard. At last a sustained attack yielded a kick at goal just before Martínez was allowed to return, and this time it was Manuel Blengio who did the honours.
Bernardo Urdaneta had clearly seen enough and in came the heavy hitters. Brian Ormson replaced an underwhelming Ignacio Albornoz at flyhalf and immediately brought some direction, and the arrival of Matías Cortese and Javier Ortega Desio fired up the forwards. It still wasn’t a cake walk, but eventually the cracks opened and sprung tries for Juan Cruz Guillemaín and Lezana, still fresh from his early break.
In terms of class Argentina were clearly the better side, but on performance few of the second-stringers would have put themselves into contention for Sunday’s finale against Canada. Brex looks a good bet to play outside Ormson in what could be a very effective midfield combination, with Paz possibly shifted to the wing to fill in for a banged-up Dan Isaack. Guillemaín or Guido Petti will be a close call in the second row, though the fitness of Matías Alemanno could be in doubt with the big fella looking a bit worse for wear as he came off.
Uruguay remain in spoiler mode and will take a great deal of heart from their 70-odd minutes of parity against the heavily favored Jaguars. The additions of de Freitas, Leandro Leivas, and the excellent Alejo Durán boosted the side, and first choice test stars Diego Magno and Gastón Mieres will be available for the match against the Americans. With all hands on deck and a similar effort, there’s a real chance they could take an Eagle scalp with them when they head home to join in the World Cup festivities.
ARGENTINA JAGUARS 31 vs 9 URUGUAY ‘A’
Wednesday, October 15, 18:00 PST, Langford
01 mins – F. Sábato try 5-0
02 mins – R. Miralles con 7-0
20 mins – M. Arocena pen 7-3
33 mins – M. Arocena pen 7-6
37 mins – J. Paz try 12-6
37 mins – R. Miralles con 14-6
40 mins – R. Miralles pen 17-6
57 mins – M. Blengio pen 17-9
75 mins – J.C. Guillemaín try 22-9
76 mins – R. Miralles con 24-9
80 mins – T. Lezana try 29-9
80 mins – R. Miralles con 31-9
33 mins – T. Lezana yellow (team infringements)
45 mins – L. Martinez yellow (foul play)
R. Miralles; F. Giménez, J.I. Brex, J. Paz, F. Sábato; I. Albornoz (B. Ormson 59), G. Bertranou (F. Ezcurra 67); R. Tejerizo (L. Noguera Paz 59), J. Montoya (M. Cortese 61), L. Martínez (M. Díaz 63); J.C. Guillemaín, M. Alemanno (G. Petti 8-14, 59); T. Lezana, R. Báez (capt.), F. Panessi (M. Díaz 47-57) (J. Ortega Desio 63).
M. Arocena; F. Bulanti (capt.), P. Dolsan, R. Bocking (R. Silva 22), L. Leivas (T. Etcheverry 74); M. Blengio, A. Durán (G. Lijstenstein 61); M. Sanguinetti (R. de Mula 61), J. Etcheverría (G. Kessler 47), F. Jiménez (L. Scarnati HT); F. Bascou (M. Castro 71), I. Dotti; G. Puig (G. Soto 47), J. de Freitas, A. Alonso.
Referee: L. Linton (SRU)
Assistants: D. Smortchevsky (RC) & H. Mason (RC)