Rugby World Cup 2003
Ireland sneak home
October 26, 2003
Keith Wood leads the Irish celebrations after they sealed victory over Argentina
© Getty Images
Eddie O'Sullivan's Ireland put the ghost of Lens to bed and qualified for the quarter-finals of the World Cup, with a third Pool A win, founded on a solid second-half performance in a tough, tension-packed game.
Marcelo Loffreda's Pumas started the better and largely controlled possession until the Irish came in at the side at a ruck just inside the Ireland 10 metre line, and out-half Gonzalo Quesada split the posts with an unerring penalty kick on eight minutes.
The Pumas were as punchy in attack as they were in defence and O'Sullivan's charges struggled to find a half break through that blue-and-white hoped blanket, with lock Ignacio Lobbe prominent in the loose.
If it was Argentine aggression on show, Ireland's nervousness was evident in the first quarter with Wood wayward on two bread-and-butter throw-ins and full back Dempsey struggling with his relieving kicks.
It was hardly the most inspiring of first halves for Ireland, with their scrum also getting a working over from the South Americans, but suddenly, against the run of play, it was celebration time as flanker Alan Quinlan was put through to outpace full back Ignacio Corleto to the left corner, following a loose Argentine pass inside their own half and an offload by hooker Wood on the Argentine 22. David Humphreys did well to put the left wing conversion over and with John Hayes off receiving treatment Ireland had a lead they scarcely deserved.
Quinlan was unfortunate to dislocate his shoulder in grounding his third tournament try and Leinster flanker Eric Miller replaced him on 19 minutes. Humphreys put Argentina seven points in arrears with a 27th minute penalty, before a smiling Quesada boosted his troops with an ugly drop goal, which slalomed its way low over the Irish cross bar from 40 metres, to reduce that deficit.
Seven minutes before the break, the Argentine out-half put his team a point behind at 10-9, with a central 20-metre penalty, as Ireland infringed and the Pumas began to play all the rugby. Staunch Irish defence kept Argentina at bay in first-half injury time after full back Corleto had made a left wing incision, but in a half with the Pumas holding two-thirds of possession, the Irish went in at the break a point up, with the wind at their backs.
Let us not forget that Ireland led 15-9 four years ago in Lens, and in kicking to touch early on in the second half, and pulling down the subsequent line out, Ireland gave Quesada a shot at the posts, but the out-half missed right with his fourth kick of the evening. A series of six phases for Ireland saw Kevin Maggs, Hickie and Shane Horgan probe the Argentine line but no chinks were to be found.
The pace wilted towards the hour mark, with Argentina punching holes through number 8 Gonzalo Longo and the bludgeon of a weighty front row. Ireland were content to relieve the war of attrition with the boot of Humphreys. Hickie found space down the right flank but couldn't release on 52 minutes before an outlandish drop goal from the halfway line by Pumas full back Corleto nudged them in front for the first time in the game.
Substitute Ronan O'Gara bisected the uprights with his first penalty chance of the night, just inside the Argentine 22', to punish Argentine hands as Brian O'Driscoll went to ground. With a 13-12 lead under their arm, the Irish finally began to find gaps, surprisingly through substitute Marcus Horan and the move end with a 66th minute right-sided penalty success for O'Gara.
Proof of the importance of the game was evident with the lack of a Mexican wave, and Argentina shorted the crowd's nails even further with a third Quesada penalty on 74 minutes to bring it back to a single score. An agonising final ten minutes saw possession ebb and flow but never did the Argentines manage to get in range and are sadly out of the tournament.
Argentina: Corleto; Nunez Piossek, Orengo, F Contepomi, Albanese; Quesada, Pichot; Grau, Mendez, Reggiardo, Lobbe, Alvarez, Ostiglia, Martin, Longo.
Not used: Ledesma, Albacete, Phelan, Fernandez Miranda, Gaitan, Martin Hernandez.
Scorers: Quesada 3 pens, drop gl; Corleto drop gl
Ireland: Dempsey; Horgan, O'Driscoll, Maggs, Hickie; Humphreys, Stringer; Corrigan, Wood, Hayes, O'Kelly, O'Connell, S Easterby, Quinlan, Costello.
Not used: Byrne, O'Callaghan, G Easterby, Kelly.
Scorers: Quinlan try; Humphreys con, pen; O'Gara 2 pens
Venue: Adelaide Oval