Argentina humbled by seven-try Ireland
Argentina humbled by seven-try Ireland
An under-pressure Ireland turned on the style to score seven tries against Santiago Phelan’s men, in a comprehensive display that made one question how they had endured such a torrid 2012 to date.
Jonny Sexton, Craig Gilroy, Simon Zebo and Tommy Bowe stood out for the hosts, and it took two tries in the last five minutes to make the scoreline look less embarrassing for Argentina.
Incredibly, observers had struggled to pick a winner in this game — pre kick-off, at least — with a question hanging over which side would be sharpest.
When Ireland hammered Fiji 53-0 in last weekend’s non-cap international in Limerick, it was done with just three players from the team that had lost to South Africa the week before.
Craig Gilroy, the trick Ulster winger, bagged a hat trick and he was the only one to force his way into the starting line-up against Argentina, and it proved to be an inspired call.
Argentina, meanwhile, were playing their 12th game of the season, a year in which they made their debut in the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship.
They beat Wales 26-12 two weeks ago, before going down 39-22 to France last Saturday, but had promised that they would not be tired when they landed in Dublin.
The first half suggested otherwise. Not only were their legs and lungs expended, their necks will have hurt trying to keep track of a rampant Irish backline.
Phelan started all bar three of the team that beat Wales a fortnight ago, with Maximiliano Bustos making his debut in the front row.
However, it was Ireland debutant Gilroy who is most likely to frame his cap from this clash.
The Ulster man took just 11 minutes to score, and when he did it was with a shimmying run that fans of Barcelona’s football superstar Lionel Messi would have appreciated.
Conor Murray fed Sexton from the back of a maul, the out-half drew Santiago Fernandez, and his inside pass found Gilroy, who had plenty yet to do.
Three stunning side-steps later and the 21-year-old touched down.
It was a sixth try in three appearances in green, although the first one to count officially.
Sexton added a second try five minutes later, after some great work from club mate Gordon D’Arcy, and in doing so the out-half passed 250 points for Ireland.
Having scored just two tries in their previous five tests, Ireland added a third on 21 minutes when Richardt Strauss got his first international try, forcing home after a maul from his own line-out.
Argentina put Ireland under fleeting pressure, and Martin Landajo’s break required late intervention from Donnacha Ryan and Zebo to stop a certain try.
As if irked by the attempt to score, Ireland upped a gear and after a monster catch from Bowe off a Garryowen, Ireland pummeled the Argentine defense, and eventually it was Zebo touched who touched down in the corner for his first try.
It took just six minutes for Ireland to prove they had learned from the second-half collapse against South Africa, when Bowe sprinted after a clever chip from Sexton, outpacing Landajo and Juan Imhoff to collect the ball and score.
The Irish were not interested in leaving anything to chance, and Sexton scored his second — and Ireland’s sixth — on 52 minutes, once more showing some great footwork to step inside the cover and stroll home.
Ireland emptied the bench, as Argentina labored on with 14 after Bustos was sent to the sin bin, and Bowe went over to register his 26th international try.
Leonardi and Lobbe crossed the Irish line as the minutes counted down, but this clash was over before the half-time whistle.
Can Barcelona shine without their star man Lionel Messi?
- Barca's first test without their main man is against Inter Milan at home in the Champions League on Wednesday.
- Catalans will look to Ousmane Dembele, Rafinha and Malcom, to step up in his absence.
BARCELONA: Barcelona’s lowest ebbs are invariably followed by questions about Lionel Messi but the issue of over-reliance may become clearer over the coming weeks.
The sight of Messi on the ground, grasping his right arm, during Barca’s win over Sevilla on Saturday prompted reactions inside the Non Camp normally reserved for the conceding of goals.
Hands behind heads, fingers over mouths, the concern became real shortly after the final whistle when the club confirmed Messi had fractured his radial bone.
His absence leaves Barca vulnerable when they need him most, for a run of fixtures that includes Inter Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday, the Clasico against Real Madrid on Sunday, before a return match against Inter in Italy at the start of next month.
If he takes longer than expected to recover, he could miss tricky games against Real Betis and Atletico Madrid in La Liga too.
Argentine ace Messi was in agony as soon as he hit the turf — he will be out for as many as six matches.
Barcelona have grown used to accusations of dependence, not least when results have taken a turn for the worse.
When Ernesto Valverde left Messi on the bench for the 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao last month, the argument was given added weight by him coming on and making the assist for their equalizer.
“This is Barcelona,” Messi said afterwards. “We have a strong team and we have enough not to have to depend on one player.”
The same point was raised last season, when Messi, as a substitute, inspired a late fightback from two goals down against Sevilla and scored in the 89th minute.
He played the entirety of the Champions League collapse against Roma but then the criticism was Barca had failed to find the answer when Messi had not provided it.
There is no team in the world that would not look worse with Messi extracted.
‘CASTING FOR REPLACEMENTS’
As Real Madrid are proving in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, a striker’s goals are difficult to replace but so too is the aura.
“Emotionally we know when Messi is there he gives us more confidence because he is the best in the world,” Pique said on Saturday. “But it does not have to affect us.”
To maintain a resurgence built on wins over Tottenham and Sevilla, as well as a draw away to Valencia, Valverde will have to find the solution.
Can Ousmane Dembele raise his game in the absence of Messi?
On Monday, Marca listed six options in a “casting for replacements” — Ousmane Dembele, Rafinha, Munir El-Haddadi, Malcom, Carles Alena and Sergi Roberto.
Alena, the 20-year-old midfielder, is an exciting talent, while Malcom, only a year older, scored 12 goals for Bordeaux last season.
But Dembele is the most obvious. Messi’s position on the right of the front three is where he is most comfortable, rather than off the left, where the 21-year-old has often been made to adapt so far.
After a debut season blighted by injuries, Dembele started the first six games of this one, scoring five goals.
But doubts remain about him in big games, where his habit for losing possession can be punished by opponents quick in transition and clinical on the counter-attack.
When Barca went three matches without a win, he was dropped. “He is not yet fully aware of what it means to play at the highest level,” said France coach Didier Deschamps last month. “He still needs to learn,” Valverde said last weekend.
It would be a surprise if Dembele was not at least given the chance at Camp Nou against Inter, who are level on points with Barca in Group B, having also beaten PSV Eindhoven and Tottenham.
Second place might have been the limit of Inter’s ambitions when the draw was made but with Messi out, they might spy an opportunity. “It is a pity,” said Mauro Icardi. “And a big blow for them.”