Dublin – 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
flank 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 flyhalf 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
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
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
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.