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The Argentina XV served the USA a heaping helping of humble pie Saturday, beating the back-to-back Americas Rugby Championship champions 45-14 in a game that wasn’t even that close. Argentina’s onslaught started immediately and didn’t relent until midway through the second half.
The Eagles struggled to tackle on defense, handle the ball in attack, and they never found their footing. A first-half red card didn’t help, but it was far from the central plot point in the storyline.
The loss is the USA’s first in the ARC since falling to Uruguay 29-25 in 2016. The Eagles now have more than a week to stew in the defeat before beginning the home leg of the competition against an ascending Brazil Feb. 24 in Austin.
Just a minute into Saturday’s loss, Argentina XV drew first blood when Santiago Carreras made multiple Eagle defenders look like turnstiles. Gannon Moore was the first tackler to miss, with two more blown tackles allowing an offload to Carreras for the score. Converted, it put Argentina up 7-0.
The hosts doubled up in short order with a lineout try. The Eagles gave up territory with a penalty against tighthead Dino Waldren for losing his feet in a scrum. The set piece had been reset multiple times. Off the lineout, Argentina hit a forward with a short pass, leading to a converted Lucas Favre try.
The Eagles mounted a pair of promising attacks on either side of the 20-minute-mark, both quelled by knock-ons.
Gaspar Balduncial added Argentina’s third try in the 29th minute. Argentina wore the USA down with a series of go-forward phases, and the slowing line speed from the American defense became entirely static, allowing the hooker to find a crease one pass from the ruck and a few meters off the try line – 21-0.
Things went from bad to worse for the USA when Paul Lasike was sent off with a red card. An Argentinean was holding the center in the ruck by his ankle, and after multiple attempts to pull away, a frustrated Lasike used his free foot to pry the other free, and the referee interpreted it as a stamp to the head.
Argentina appeared to take a lead in the 33rd minute, shortly after the Eagles went down a man, but hustle from Moore and Hanco Germishuys prevented the grounding, saving a score. The Americans managed to repel Argentina the rest of the half, taking a 21-0 deficit into the shed.
The Eagles didn’t find any magic words at halftime, as the USA started the second stanza like the first, with a bevy of unforced errors. Frustration bubbled over when Hanco Germishuys got into an argument with the referee over Argentina’s water boy and then committed an intentional knock-on seconds later. Argentina scored quickly, extending the lead to 26-0.
Tempers continued to simmer, with John Quill and Argentina’s inside center both being sent off for extras off the ball. Shortly thereafter, Argentina found space in the USA’s 13-man defense, with scrumhalf Felipe Ezcurra catching an offload to dive over from short distance. Argentina doubled up with a couple of minutes, settling into a 40-point lead with just over 20 minutes to go.
The Eagles did save some face in the final two minutes, earning a penalty try after the final pass was intentionally knocked on by Argentina. They dotted one down, too, with Dylan Fawsitt catching an offload from Cam Dolan.