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The Argentina Jaguars defeated the USA Selects 39-3 in the opening match of the Americas Rugby Championship at Westhills Stadium in Langford, BC.
On a wet and windy day, both teams knew they would have to test each other in tight and with their kicking game - for the most part, this would be expected to favor the Argentinians.
Both teams wanted to go up quickly on defense, reasoning, correctly, that the backs would be careful with a wet ball.
But early on the Jaguars had the upper hand. They clearly were more powerful in the scrum, stealing the first USA put-in and nabbing six overall in the first half.
Argentina also looked dangerous out wide, but their initial attacks were hauled in by some desperate defense by the Americans.
The USA Selects had the first real scoring chance, with a penalty just a few meters inside the Argentina half. Flyhalf Gearoid McDonald had plenty of distance, but perhaps a little eager to prove his worth, pulled the kick slightly right.
Moments later, Argentina got a penalty for an infringement at the ruck, and Santiago Gonzalo Iglesias had no trouble.
The Selects tried to attack despite the conditions, and did so from a free kick off a scrum. Captain Cameron Dolan made a half-break, but his offload out of the tackle was nabbed by Argentina and kicked downfield. Fullback Chris Chapman took too long to kick and ended up being penalized for holding on. No problem for Iglesias, 6-0.
Right from the restart a good chase from the USA forced another penalty, but McDonald pulled it just right again.
With the ball in hand McDonald had more success, making some good passes and launching some impressive high balls that landed just outside the Jaguars 22. But Argentina usually was good on thye counter, showing confidence and good interplay as they worked their way downfield. A dangerous kick to the corner could have been trouble, had it not been for some desperate work from Cornelius Dirksen and Derek Asbun.
However, eventually prop Nick Wallace was sin-binned for offenses in the
ruck (after an earlier warning). Argentina took a lineout and drove the
ball to the line, but were just stopped. Still it looked problematic for
the USA as they had a scrum right on their line. Cam Dolan to the rescue,
and he nabbed the ball squirting out the side and drove through several
tacklers to give his team some breathing.
Only for a moment, though. A nifty dummy by Argentina captain and scrumhalf Tomás Cubelli allowed him to race to the posts, and he fed center Javier Rojas for a brilliant try.
That made it 13-0. Time up on the clock, but not on referee Joaquin Montero's watch. The USA got a penalty off the restart, but McDonald missed, just, once more. And then the Jaguars nabbed the ball from a scrum once more and Cubelli blazed passed a few desperately reaching American arms. He popped a pass in to wing Facundo Barrea for one more try. Iglesias hit the conversion and it was 20-0.
The USA Selects had plenty of good moments. Their defense forced a series of knock-ons which, if their scrum had held firm, would have made for some good attacking opportunities. Jack Tracy was a load of trouble at inside center and Asbun was all over the pitch.
Worrying for the USA, Taylor Mokate had to leave, with Kris Headlee coming on at flanker.
In the second half, the USA came back with a renewed energy, and they got a boost from wing Miles Craigwell. The recent USA 7s player caught a lofting kick near his line, broke through two tacklers and raced a good 60 meters into the Argentina territory. No try, but a penalty, and wing Zach Pangelinan easily whacked it over.
The Americans looked in excellent shape to score again at 57 minutes. After taking the lineout on a penalty, they worked the phases and sent a grubber near the Argentina line. But Jaguars wing Ramiro Moyano caught the ball on the run, and ran untouched 85 meters for a try very much against the run of play. 25-3 Argentina.
For Argentina, their success, through, came from excellent defense. The USA had plenty of possession early in the second half, but were not able to break through.
For the USA Selects, the set piece continued to disappoint them. They produced some good lineouts, and stole a few, too, but the timing was a little off and they lost some throws, as well.
The USA forwards made minor inroads, but painfully slow ball - something referee Montero had no problem with - meant the Jaguar defense reset easily and waited for the turnover. They got it, and hands out to Moyano for his second.
More good breaks - Nick Wallace, Zach Fenoglio, Miles Craigwell - but in the end the USA looked like a group of inexperienced players who don't know each well, and the Jaguars looked the opposite.
The USA perked up after that, and it seemed clear that the insertion of Shaun Davies at scrumhalf was an influence. The service of Davies was just faster than that of Benny Mateialona, and that opened up opportunities for Dean Gericke and Jack Tracy. The centers put Argentina on the back foot, and they were forced to infringe. Chris Chapman took the quick tap but was just hauled down short of the tryline. Now, just when the USA was set to score, indecision and slow work at the ruck undid them.
Moyano finished the game by nabbing an ill-advised quick lineout from Chapman and going in under the posts. The USA could point to as many as 16 points left on the field, and probably 12 or 15 gifted Argentina. But in the end the scoreline was far as the Jaguars made mistakes pay. The USA Selects battled, and just need quicker ball and a better performance at the scrum and in goalkicking.
Notes: Derek Asbun and Taylor Mokate both left with worrying injuries and Asbun was seen on crutches after the match. Captain Cam Dolan played like a leader, while Jack Tracy was solid. Miles Craigwell and Shaun Davies seem to have earned themselves more time.
Argentina Jaguars 39
Tries: Rojas, Barrea, Moyano 3
Convs: Iglesias 4
Pens: Iglesias 2
USA Selects 3
Argentina: 1-Francisco Piccinini, 2-Bruno Postiglioni, 3-Juan Gómez; 4-Felipe Aranguren, 5-Matías Alemanno; 6-Tomás De la Vega, 7-Rodrigo Bruno, 8-Benjamín Macome; 9-Tomás Cubelli (capitán), 10-Santiago González Iglesias; 11-Manuel Montero, 12-Javier Rojas, 13-Jerónimo De la Fuente, 14-Facundo Barrea; 15-Román Miralles.
Suplentes: 16-Ignacio Sáenz Lancuba, 17-Ramiro Herrera, 18-Martín García Veiga, 19-Alejandro Campos, 20-Lisandro Ahualli de Chazal, 21-Marcos Bollini, 22-Valentín Cruz y 23-Ramiro Moyano.
Coaches: Daniel Hourcade y Emiliano Bergamaschi.
USA: 1-Nicholas Wallace, 2-Derek Asbun, 3-Zachary Fenoglio; 4-Tom Katzfey, 5-Graham Harriman; 6-Cam Dolan, 7-John Quill, 8-Taylor Mokate; 9-Benny Mateialona, 10-Gearoid McDonald; 11-Zachary Pangelinan, 12-Jack Tracy, 13-Dean Gericke, 14-Cornelius Dirksen; 15-Chris Chapman.
Suplentes: 16-Stan Moaalii, 17-Tony Purpura, 18-Tim Paulsen, 19-Nicholas Civetta, 20-Kris Headlee, 21-Shaun Davies, 22-Zachary Mizell y 23-Miles Craigwell.
Coach: Mike Tolkin.
Referee: Joaquin Montero, Uruguay