Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pumas Bow Out, Boks Roll Onwards

It started with about five minutes of ping-pong, and just when it looked like the Pumas were making a break, South Africa struck back with an interception and Fourie du Preez [right] sprinted miles to cross for the Boks. Percy Montgomery added the extras and South Africa were 7-0 ahead.

Juan Martín Hernández had a half-hearted attempt at a drop goal at 9 minutes, but it went nowhere. A few minutes later, Juan Smith was judged to have obstructed Agustin Pichot off the ball, and Felipe Contepomi took the points to bring them back to 7-3. But then the Pumas let a pentalty go themselves, and Monty hit back with another three - 10-3.

It was the Boks who infringed again at the breakdown - Felipe Contepomi was unable to add the three points. At the restart, Lucas Borges [left] fumbled the ball horribly and nearly found Bryan Habana over the line with the ball - but Argentina hit back with an attacking run and a lovely kick for touch. The Puma forwards rolled a maul from the lineout, for a good few metres. But the Springboks backed off slightly and the Argentines were pinged for "truck and trailer" moves. Cunning strategy from the Boks?

At 23 minutes, Francois Steyn went for a drop goal from inside his own half, but it just bobbled along the floor into Argentine hands. The next Boks' lineout was a bit of a mess, with the greens having to mop up at the back. They won the ball, just, but were then caught holding on. A shame that the next Pumas' lineout was stolen by the South Africans.

At 28 minutes, Argentina won another penalty with the Boks holding on, this time Contepomi made no mistake, and it was 10-6. Despite the scoreline, I think the Argentines have been playing the better rugby in the first half hour.

Habana took a high kick and set off down the wing, but the Pumas' defence was good, and the Boks were turned over. They made more inroads into the South African 22, but they turned over again, it was slung wide to Habana who chipped ahead, and off he went, ripping up the turf. Montgomery's kick went plumb through the middle and it was 17-6.

With a minute to go before the break, Argentina fumbled the ball in their own half and it was picked up by Steyn - it went through Jaque Fourie, and Schalk Burger [right] to Danie Rossouw who dived over for a nail-in-coffin try - especially when Percy punted the two points. The Pumas went in with heavy hearts and 24-6 down.

The Pumas needed to keep the error count down in the second half, and not try too hard, just get the basics right. Argentina pushed a huge scrum and knocked the Boks back, and when they moaned about the penalty, ref Steve Walsh made them retreat another 10m! Hernadez' massive boot kicked the ball deep into Bok territory. They camped down in the South African half for several minutes, Mario Ledesma took it up to 2m in front of the line, then it was spun wide with men over. Manuel Contepomi [left] was the man over the line, and the score was declared good by TMO Spreaders after a bit of deliberation. Brother Felipe Contepomi added the extra points and the Argentines were back in at 24-13.

Soon afterwards, the Pumas knicked a Springbok lineout but knocked on a phase or two later. But the South African scrum collapsed and the Pumas kicked long for territory deep in the SA half. The Boks stole the lineout and cleared, but then fumbled the possession when it came back to them.

At 52 minutes, Argentina won a penalty for offside, and Contepomi was quick to step up for the kick. It banana'd wide, so the score remained static. Argentina had a half opportunity, but then at 62 minutes, Habana took off for the line but had received a forward pass.

The next Argentine scrum was solid. Then Habana was caught offside and the Pumas kicked long for a lineout. It was stolen by the South Africans, who promptly kicked it back into the Pumas' half. A minute later, Argentina were pinged in the Boks' half, and Francois Steyn stepped up for a huge penalty - it just didn't quite have the length.

Then Pichot was offside at the back of the scrum, and Percy Montgomaery lined up the ball, punted it squarely over, taking the score to 27-13. They were done again at 73 minutes, and Monty punished them again, 30-13.

At 74 minutes, Argentina had a scrum deep in South African territory - it was looking good, but then the missile that is Bryan Habana intercepted a wayward pass and ran most of the length of the pitch to dive over between the posts. Monty added two, and the poor old Pumas were done for, 37-13.

There was a bit of argey bargey late on in the game, after Juan Smith was sent to the sinbin for a high tackle. Eventually Steve Walsh calmed things down, but then Contepomi lashed out and was sent to the bin as well.

It's a great shame the Pumas just didn't have it in the tank to pull off another win - they have achieved so much during this tournament, and gained an awful lot of respect, both on and off the pitch.

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