Argentina dethrone France to win World Rugby Classic
Gabriel Ascarte’s first-half penalty helped Classic Pumas overcome Classic France 3-0 to win the 35th instalment of the World Rugby Classic by the barest of margins in an exciting final at the National Sports Centre last night.
Ascarte, a former Glasgow Warriors centre, was successful with his shot at goal in the ninth minute after Irish referee Alan Lewis penalised France for being offside. The Argentinians held on for the rest of the match to finish the tournament without conceding any points and gain revenge following their 21-20 loss to the French in last year’s final.
The win was Argentina’s sixth success in the competition and their first since 2019, with France just missing out on a third consecutive title.
Ascarte, 36, playing in the Classic for the first time after calling time on his professional career two years ago, was pleased to have won it for Argentina.
“I'm really happy, it’s my first tournament here,’’ Ascarte said.
“I'm really happy to be with my friends, with my national team and after seven beautiful days we won the cup. I’m happy to come to this beautiful place and I had a great time with my team.
“It was a tough game and we know that France is always a difficult team to beat as they have a lot of great players. Congratulations to France because I think it was a really good final. We had a really good defence, we love our country and we defended that.
“This is a beautiful tournament for all the guys that are retired, it’s a good moment and we are really happy to be here.”
After Ascarte put Argentina in the lead, France had a chance to level matters but Mathieu Amoros sent his kick wide of the posts from the Argentinian ten-metre line.
At the start of the second half, the Argentinians had a player sent to the sin bin for five minutes but despite being one man short the Pumas were resolute in defence to deny the French a comeback.
Meanwhile, Classic Springboks won the Plate courtesy of a 17-8 triumph over Rugby Canada.
Former Springboks flyhalf Morne Steyn was the star of the show for the South Africans, scoring a try, two conversions and a penalty to finish with a points haul of 12.
Steyn, 39, the second-highest points scorer in Test rugby for South Africa, seems to have enjoyed his first Classic tournament after his retirement from the professional game in June.
“The whole week was fun, thanks to Bermudian guys. It was my first time but definitely not the last one,’’ Steyn said.
“I'm retired now but I'm not retired from the legends. The quality of rugby at this tournament was really good, nice and physical and the teams are doing very well. For us it’s been a great tournament.
“We messed up a bit the first game but it’s all fun and games and luckily we won a trophy.”
Steyn opened the scoring for the men in green and gold with a penalty from the Canada 22-metre line after a high tackle.
Damien Hudd, a player loaned to the South Africans by the Lions for the match, was sent to the sin-bin and Canada had an opportunity to draw level from a penalty, only for Jared Stephens to miss. A change in kicker did it for the North Americans when South Africa were penalised for a deliberate knock-on, Sam Franklin sending the ball in between the sticks to make it 3-3.
A stolen ball from a Canada lineout gave the South Africans a great start to the second half, Steyn producing a great dummy to score near the posts, with his successful conversion taking the score to 10-3 in his team’s favour.
When the Springboks were nailed for a tackler not releasing on their ten-metre line, Franklin saw his penalty goal attempt go wide.
Steyn tried to go for the posts with a long-range effort when Canada were caught offside, but his attempt fell short.
A clever kick by full back Zane Kirchner set up South Africa’s second try of the match, captain Sam Gerber finishing things off by dotting the ball on the right corner. The kick was good from Steyn and South Africa were 17-3 ahead.
Canada were the last to score, Franklin planting the ball over the line with five minutes left, only to miss the conversion.