Pumas in hat-trick heaven
The Classic Pumas sealed an impressive hat-trick of World Rugby Classic titles by retaining their crown with a 16-6 victory over Classic Springboks at North Field, National Sports Centre, last night.
The tournament favourites overturned a 3-0 half-time deficit, with the boot of Gonzalo Gutierrez Taboada proving pivotal, kicking 11 of his side's overall points to guide them to the title.
Martin Yanguela, a Puma's official hailed the efforts of his side and spoke of his delight adding another successful chapter in their World Rugby Classic story.
“It's an incredible achievement for us,” he said. “To win it three times in a row is incredible, at this level it is an amazing achievement.
“We've been coming here for many years, we have become a big part of the World Rugby Classic story. Hopefully, we can come back next year and try to make it four in a row.”
Yanguela pinpointed the Puma's kicking tactics as the key to completing the impressive turnaround against the greater physicality of the Springboks.
“Because of the wind, we kept kicking the ball into South Africa's half and then made them make the effort to run from deep in the field,” he added.
“The pressure we put on them became a big problem for them.”
The Pumas spurned the first opportunity to break the deadlock from a penalty in the fourth minute as Taboada slipped while striking the ball and could only watch on as it sailed wide.
To make matters worse, South Africa opened the scoring from a penalty of their own as Rheinhard Gerber sent his kick from 35 metres sailing through the posts. The Pumas spent the remaining 20 minutes camped inside the South African half, but could not find a way through the dogged Springboks defence.
The Springboks were breached just four minutes into the second-half as Argentina scored what proved the only try of the encounter.
Federico Aramburu received the ball at speed, with his momentum carrying him through the defensive line to race clear and score between the posts. Taboada was left with the simple task of slotting home the conversion.
The match then became a tale of penalties with Taboada taking centre stage. His first opportunity in the 37th minute proved successful despite another untimely slip taking the score to 10-3, before he spurned a more difficult attempt four minutes later.
South Africa's ill-discipline continued to cost them as Taboada duly accepted another penalty opportunity, just a minute after his last, extending the Pumas advantage to 13-3.
South Africa responded with a penalty of their own in the 44th minute courtesy of the boot of Gerber to reduce the deficit, only for Taboada to restore Argentina's ten-point advantage just four minutes later with his third successful kick.
The final ten minutes saw the Springboks throw everything at the Pumas who, despite being reduced to 14 men for the final three minutes after Antonio Ahualli was sin-binned, weathered the onslaught.
?The USA Eagles survived a first-half onslaught against France to retain their Plate title with a 14-7 win last night.
Perhaps smelling blood given that it was Eagles' second match in as many days after the finals were brought forward because of bad weather forecast for tonight, it was France who made the brighter start.
The Eagles cause was hardly helped when Eric Deuchle was sin-binned in the fifth minute allowing the French to make the most of their numerical advantage and open the scoring off the back of a driving maul through Thomas Soucaze.
Benoit Marfaing made no mistake with the conversion.
The momentum appeared to swing further in France's favour when Eagles' Stanislas Durand was injured early in the second half, although the US did manage to pull level albeit against the run play.
An interception by Fred Wintermantel acted as a catalyst for the Eagles comeback, with the flanker sending Peter Dahl flying down the left to score his side's first try. Matt Turner kicked the extra points.
France were searching for a way to unlock the Eagles defence when they were awarded a penalty. However, Marfaing handed the US a reprieve, his effort lacking the required mustard in the windy conditions.
With 11 minutes remaining, the stage was set for Bermuda captain Aldo Campbell to ensure Eagles retained their title with a marauding run through the middle to score the match-winning try. Turner's boot made in 14-7.
“Aldo came to the US to our Tiger Rugby Academy [in Columbus, Ohio] years ago,” Paul Holmes, the Eagles coach said.
“For him to score the winning try was an amazing. This is massive for us and it's really exciting to win back-to-back [Plate] titles.”