Carreras' hat-trick sends Argentina to quarters
MATCH REPORT: Argentina qualified for the quarterfinals with a hard fought 39-27 victory over Japan in Nantes on Sunday.
They will face Wales in Marseilles next Saturday.
This game had all the ingredients of a top tier cake – it had passion, precision, finesse, power and skill all wrapped into one encounter.
Los Pumas scored in the opening minute with a brilliant break by Santiago Chocobares to score under the poles. Emiliano Boffelli added the extras and Argentina was ahead 7-0 after only two minutes of play.
Japan got their tails up after winning a big scrum penalty which would have settled the nerves, something you don’t often see against Argentina.
Talking about finesse – Japan scrumhalf Naoto Saito kicked the ball over his head from the ruck which resulted in Japan rushing into the Argentina 22. But the ball was lost and a big chance gone astray.
And then up stepped Amato Fakatava with one of the best tries seen at this years’ World Cup by a lock. Unbelievable chip, then a kind bounce and Fakatava was in, making it look so easy to even the score at 7-7.
A yellow card to Lappies Labuschagne, maybe questionable, for a head on head contact in the 22th minute, also to be reviewed by the bunker, would possibly stem Japans’ play.
Luckily for the Japanese, the yellow remained just a yellow but it cost Japan as Argentina scored eight points during this time.
A supreme counter attack by Los Pumas after a great charge down from Marcos Kremer – right in the face resulting in Mateo Carreras scoring on the opposite side of the field with too much space for any Brave Blossom to catch.
Argentina took the lead once more by 12-7 after Boffelli’s conversion was missed.
A successful penalty goal thanks to Boffelli kept the scoreboard rolling, with Los Pumas leading by 15-7.
Japan just love to try some spectacular tries as Riley, with no space to move, created deception, passed to the smallest man on the field, Saito, to finish off a brilliant move.
It was a one-point game with Japan trailing by 14-15 at half-time.
Five minutes into the second half it was that man Carreras again, slicing through to get another five points for his team.
The conversion was good and Los Pumas stretched their lead to 22-14.
But then an error from Argentina as the ball went out on the full and Japan took the opportunities presented to them to add another three points to their score.
Then up stepped Lomano Lemeki to send a perfect drop goal through the posts and it was a two-point game, 20-22.
But the Los Pumas were not done yet as Boffelli bashed in for their fourth bonus point try. He converted and Argentina was leading 29-20 going into the last 20 minutes.
However you cannot keep Japan down and they never go away. They attacked and attacked in the Argentina 22 and then Jone Naikabula dotted down in the corner with some work to do.
A massive conversion by who else but Matsuda closed the gap to a two-pointer again and we had a belter on our hands.
But Carreras had more to say about proceeding, dancing his way through some bad tackling to get in for his hat-trick.
And then Nicholas Sanchez nailed a long penalty goal to take the game away from Japan with six minutes to go – Argentina 39 Japan 27.
It was not to be for Japan, but the Brave Blossoms can hold their heads high. They entertained, showed they belong on the world stage and are loved worldwide for their courage and never-say-die attitude.
Argentina missed out on the quarterfinals in 2019 but this time round they did enough.
Man of the Match: Mateo Carreras – it was pure delight to watch the wing go about his business, scoring a hat-trick, slicing through defence and hardly being touched.
Tries: Chocobares, Careras 2, Boffelli
Cons: Boffelli 3, Sanchez
Pens: Boffelli, Sanchez
Tries: Fakatava, Saito, Naikabula
Cons: Matsuda 3
Yellow card: Lappies Labuschagne (Japan – 22’ for head clash)
Japan: 15 Lomano Lemeki; 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 13 Dylan Riley, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Siosaia Fifita; 10 Rikiya Matsuda, 9 Naoto Saito; 8 Kazuki Himeno (captain), 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Michael Leitch; 5 Amato Fakatava, 4 Jack Cornelsen; 3 Jiwon Gu, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Warner Dearns, 20 Amanaki Saumaki, 21 Kenta Fukuda, 22 Ryohei Yamanaka, 23 Jone Naikabula
Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia; 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Mateo Carreras; 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou; 8 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera; 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti; 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Joel Sclavi, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Pedro Rubiolo, 21 Lautaro Bazan, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Matias Moroni
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)