Ireland beat Argentina but at a cost
MATCH REPORT: Ireland made it 10 successive home wins in a 28-17 victory over Argentina on Saturday at Lansdowne Road that came at a cost for the Six Nations Grand Slam holders.
The hosts scored three tries to the visitors’ one but lost flanker Sean O’Brien, scrumhalf Kieran Marmion and centre Robbie Henshaw, who was hurt in the warm-up, to injuries.
Their losses could prove a spanner in the works for head coach Joe Schmidt’s plans with world champions New Zealand due next Saturday in a clash of the top two-ranked teams in the world.
“There are lots of positives to take out of this,” said Irish captain Rory Best.
“It’s been a long time since this group played together so rust was inevitable.
“With Robbie dropping out too so close to the match was also a blow.”
Pumas fly-half Nicolas Sanchez — whose 12 points took him to 692 Test points – landed a long-range penalty in the third minute after young fullback Jordan Larmour failed to release the ball.
Ireland stormed back and such was their confidence of getting the better of the Pumas forwards Jonathan Sexton rejected going for goal on two occasions, opting for touch instead.
It nearly came off when CJ Stander went over driven on by his fellow forwards but the video referee was unable to discern whether or not he had touched down.
However, from the resulting scrum, Marmion went over from close in although Sexton sent his conversion attempt well wide of the posts.
Sanchez restored Argentina’s lead with another finely-struck penalty after Ramiro Moyano took a superb catch off his own kick-off, putting the Irish in all sorts of trouble.
The hosts were all over the place just after the quarter of an hour mark as the Pumas’ vibrant backline ran them ragged ending with young wing Bautista Delguy going over in the corner for his first Test try. Sanchez failed to convert leaving the visitors 11-5 up.
The hosts came back again, making merry against the Pumas scrum.
They turned the ball over and with referee Nic Berry playing advantage, centre Bundee Aki burst through off a Marmion pass breaking opposing skipper Pablo Matera’s tackle to touch down. Sexton converted for 12-11.
Another Sanchez penalty — Aki being penalised — put the visitors 14-12 up as the first-half wound down.
A thriller of a half ended with Sexton landing a long-range penalty.
However, joy was tempered with sadness as flanker Sean O’Brien playing his first Test for almost a year due to hip and shoulder injuries went off holding his wrist.
Sanchez put Argentina back in front early in the second-half only for Sexton to reply as the hour mark approached to give the hosts an 18-17 advantage.
Once again, though, his penalty was countered by an injury to a key player as Marmion went off limping.
The Irish finally earned some breathing space when Marmion’s replacement Luke McGrath broke Matera’s tackle to go over after being fed by Stander. Sexton converting to put them more than a converted try ahead.
Tries: Marmion, Aki, L McGrath
Cons: Sexton 2
Pens: Sexton 3
Pens: Sanchez 4
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Ireland: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Will Addison, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Dan Leavy, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Andrew Conway.
Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicholas Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Guido Petti, 6 Pablo Matera (captain), 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18 Lucio Sordoni, 19 Rodrigo Bruni, 20 Thomas Lezana, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 23 Matias Moroni
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Ludovic Cayre (France)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)