Pumas scrape home with last-gasp try
Lucio Lopez scored in the dying seconds of a pulsating Classic semi-final to break Canada hearts and send Argentina through to today’s final against the Classic Lions.
With less than a minute left on the clock the Argentina wing dived over in the corner finishing off a Pumas move that began on the opposite side of the field and saw Canada’s defence switch off briefly at the end of a game they had dominated for large parts.
Lopez’s try, which Frederico Todeschini converted, completed a stirling comeback for Argentina who found themselves behind twice and also butchered two golden second-half opportunities to score in a closely fought contest that once again revolved around the breakdown.
“We knew that early or late an advantage was going to arrive, we trusted in our play.” Rodolfo Ventura, the Argentina manager said. “It took a little bit longer than we expected, but really the Canadian team was very strong this year.
“The second half we had a lack of concentration and that cost us a try, but after they scored we still had six or seven minutes and we knew that having the wind, and with our committment, we were going to at least draw the match.”
Defeat was particularly hard on Canada who, despite being underdogs going in to last night’s game at the National Sports Centre, more than matched their South American opponents. And their constant battering of the inside channel through Kyle Nicholls and Ryan Banks led to the game’s opening try two minutes from half-time.
A sustained spell of Canadian pressure right in front of the Argentina posts eventually saw Morgan Williams get the ball out to John Graff, and with Argentina defenders sucked in to the ruck, the Canada full back exchanged passes with Nicholls and crashed over from close range.
Argentina responded almost immediately. Creating some space out wide through the clever running of Leandro Lobrauco, the scrum half, and the more direct approach of Julio Brolese, the prop, Argentina worked enough of a gap to get Bernardo Stortoni over the line on the stroke of half-time.
Up until that point the two teams had been embroiled in a typically physical exchange with the ball kept tight through multiple phases and the crash ball the favoured option of attack for both teams.
Tied at 5-5 at the break, the Pumas began the second half with their tails up and they should have been at least one score to the good in the first seven minutes of the second half, and Sebastian Crispo, the right wing, missed out twice inside four minutes.
First Santiago van der Ghote, the full back, straightened his run instead of sending a final pass out wide with the Canada defence stretched, and in an almost exact repeat Javier Pertile, the centre, failed to spot Crispo in acres of space five yards out and was swallowed up by some desperate Canada defence.
Penalties were a constant feature of yesterday’s game, and the infringing at the breakdown finally became too much for referee Huw Watkins, who sent Nicholls to the sin-bin, moments after having some strong words with his team-mate Ryan Banks.
A man down, Canada blew a try scoring opportunity of their own when Nolan Miles broke from inside his own, outstripped the Argentina defence and with only one man to beat sent a shocking pass inside to Dan Harlow who could not collect the ball at his ankles.
Still, the underdogs took the lead for the second time following a five-minute spell of intense pressure within two yards of the Argentina line. Time and again Argentina were forced to concede penalties as Canada hammered away at them, and eventually Banks barged over from close range to put his side 10-5 ahead.
The lead lasted just five minutes before Lopez’s half break opened a gap and van der Ghote made up for his earlier error by finishing off a move that also saw Brolese make some hard yards up the middle.
With Frederico Todeschini missing his second conversion attempt extra time beckoned, and then Argentina launched one last attack, Canada were a split second too late in drifting across and Lopez dived gleefully over the line to set up his side’s first chance at winning the Classic since their triumph in 1999.
In yesterday’s second Plate semi-final, Anton La Vin scored two tries as Australia beat South Africa 26-21 to book their place in today’s Plate final against USA.
The game turned at the end of the first half when having put his side 14-12 ahead, Egon Seconds attempted to kick the ball into touch to bring the half to a close, missed, and Australia turned the mistake into a try with Dan Collins going over in the corner.
Nick Riley’s conversion put them 19-14 ahead and it was a lead they were never to lose. La Vin and Pieter Muller traded tries in the second half but Australia held out for the win.