Argentina 28-12 Tonga Rugby World Cup Report
Argentina kept their Pool C hopes alive with a 28-12 bonus point win over Tonga, but they didn’t have it all their own way at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka. The Pumas showed the potential of their pack, capitalising on Tongan errors to notch up four tries in the opening 25 minutes. Julian Montoya became the first hooker to score a World Cup hat trick since Ireland’s Keith Wood in 1999.
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Tonga slowly grew into the game with two Telusa Veianu tries - the second of which was one of the best of the tournament so far - but they ultimately struggled to keep possession in Argentine territory for long enough.
The fast paced opening was indicative of two teams that desperately needed their first win in Japan 2019’s designated ‘Pool of Death’. Early Argentine pressure resulted in a penalty which they boldly chose to kick into touch. The beautifully worked set piece which followed justified the decision and Montoya finished off a training ground move from the line out to give his team the lead, before Benjamin Urdapilleta converted from a tight angle.
The next few minutes were characterised by a kicking contest, as both teams sought to see who would crack first. But it was Tonga who struggled the most to gain a foothold in the game. A formidable tackle by flanker Marcos Kremer nearly led to a scoring interception, but Argentina didn’t have long to wait to draw more Tongan blood. A driving maul reflective of the Pumas’ cohesive forward play saw Montoya go over for his second on 17 minutes, before Urdapilleta converted impressively again.
Just two minutes later a Tonga handling error allowed wing Santiago Carreras to pick up the loose ball and head under the posts. At that stage, Tonga were already facing a mountain to climb at 21-0 down. It was nearly deja vu just moments later as the Pacific Islanders generously handed over possession once again, but from the resulting scrum, an Urdapilleta assault on the try line was ruled out by the TMO after he fell short and attempted to drag the ball over.
Montoya Makes it Three
Tonga were finding themselves trapped in their own half, and in a matter of minutes, Montoya went through once more, this time from two metres out. It was the freescoring hooker’s fourth of the tournament so far – all the more remarkable when it is considered his predecessor in the number two jersey, the legendary Mario Ledesma, now the Argentina Head Coach, only managed three tries over the course of an esteemed 84-cap career.
Tonga’s reply, just shy of the half hour mark, exhibited the exciting talents within their ranks which have shone only sporadically in the competition thus far. After Urdapilleta was charged down, Leicester Tigers full back Veianu picked up the ball five metres out, but still had a lot to do. His power and pace took him past four Argentinians on his way to the corner.
Tonga Find Their Feet
By the end of the first half, the game had developed into a more even contest. Humidity of up to 50 per cent might have contributed to handling mistakes from both teams. Tonga could have slashed their opponents’ advantage even more before the break, but the TMO ruled nothing was wrong with what appeared to be a shoulder barge to force Carreras into touch, as he sprinted for the corner.
Tonga came out looking to assert themselves in the second half, but struggled to find their rhythm going forward. With play becoming increasingly cagey, the next score started to look increasingly pivotal, and it came via a wonderful move from the Tongan backs. After powerful replacement wing Cooper Vuna displayed magnet like ball control, taking on and beating a defender, he fed a quick no look offload behind his back to the brilliant Veianu. With time and space conspiring against the full back, he dived full stretch to score a spectacular try in the corner, touching down while in mid air before being bundled off the field of play.
The ensuing conversion was missed, and that was the best it got for Tonga. Despite offering glimpses of excellence, the Sea Eagles struggled to make a consistent offensive impact. Their next game is against France in Kumamoto on Sunday, 6th October, ending an unenviable run of games against three of the world’s best teams.
If this is an improving Argentina side, there is no reason why they can’t spoil the party for either England or France as the heavyweights battle to progress from Pool C. The Pumas will feel better for having claimed their first victims, heading into a crunch clash with England in Tokyo on Saturday, 6th October.
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