Rugby World Cup
Argentina revive brilliance of 2007 to reach Rugby World Cup semifinals again
Tom Hamilton
October 18, 2015
Superb Argentina stun Ireland

CARDIFF, Wales -- This is the second coming of the Pumas. As the Argentinean proverb goes: "A man who develops himself is born twice". While Agustin Pichot and Felipe Contepomi -- heroes of Argentina's previous visit to the semifinals of the Rugby World Cup -- sat in the stands watching the 2015 vintage emulate their achievement, they would have seen more than a touch of their own character in this side.

The two-sided attack was straight from the 2007 playbook as was their immense character and relentless pressure around the breakdown. If eight years ago was the birth of Argentina in the World Cup, this was their reincarnation.

Argentina fans had much to cheer in Cardiff © Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images

Ireland 20-43 Argentina (Australia only)
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The mesmeric Juan Martin Hernandez and Nicolas Sanchez had their hands all over this Argentina wing with the ability to attack down both flanks off one set-piece proving crucial in their two first half tries. And then there were their two wingers who put in astonishing performances. Footballing great Diego Maradona will return to watch their semifinal and even he must marvel at Juan Imhoff and Santiago Cordero's footwork as they bamboozled anything in green.

But this was a win born in their phenomenal back-row. The 2007 master Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe worked wonderfully in tandem with the apprentice Pablo Matera with old hand Leonardo Senatore anchoring the scrum at No.8.

Even when he left after 50 minutes, on came the 22-year-old Facundo Isa. Those three at the back of the scrum were essential in getting a hold on the match in the second half when for a spell it looked like Ireland were going to pull off the most astonishing of comebacks.

Juan Imhoff claimed two tries© Phil Walter/Getty Images

It was the most turbulent, vibrant of atmospheres. Chants of 'Ole, Ole' were countered by 'Fields of Athenry'. It was all in good taste, not a drop of anger and all in line with an occasion to rival the most passionate the fine Millennium Stadium has seen. So much was made of England's home advantage in this World Cup -- that amounted to nothing -- but at one stage as Ireland turned the tide of the match, even without five of their top players, the crowd was spurring them on giving them an impetus akin to a numerical advantage. But their awful opening spell proved to be insurmountable.

Schmidt: Players will learn from defeat
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They were 17 points adrift after 19 minutes. Anything Argentina touched turned to points with an ascendancy in the set-piece and the benefit of getting on the right side of referee Jerome Garces. But then came the fightback with Luke Fitzgerald, on for the injured Tommy Bowe midway through the first half, showing his 2009 brilliance to twice dance through the Argentina defence either side of half time. One break turned into a try for himself -- thanks to a delicious offload from Robbie Henshaw -- and the next teed up Jordi Murphy.

But without two key back-rowers, their captain, the star fly-half and their starting outside centre, they lacked the strength in depth to continue kicking on when they brought the game to 23-20 after 52 minutes. They simply did not have enough left in the tank despite a heroic attempt at a fightback.

The question regarding Argentina is just how far they can go. They must sort out their discipline in and around the ruck with Marcos Ayerza and Ramiro Herrera guilty of giving away silly penalties through losing their cool in the Cardiff cauldron. They are also guilty of overplaying. Sometimes hoofing the ball as far as possible is a better option than attempting to unpick the opposition defence off their own tryline.

But they are minor things to correct and should not detract from a wonderful fiesta put on by the men in blue and white. Hernandez and his fellow 2007 veterans have been here before but it is the bright young things in Matera and Cordero who could yet be the deciding factor in their forthcoming semifinal.

Argentina have so far flown under the radar. Opponents should be wary of another Argentinean proverb: "A dog that barks all the time gets little attention". They have just bared their teeth and have shown some wonderful mongrel.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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