Sunday 21 October 2007

Puma Power

Argentina 34-10 France

Argentina. The team of the world cup. Bar the French for obvious reasons, who doesn't love the Pumas? A team of ex-pat professionals with a splattering of amateurs, recruited weeks before the world cup to a hastily constructed training camp. They don't have the same top of the range facilities as the Australians or the large, fanatical player base of New Zealand. Yet a country were football is sporting religion has shook the rugby world for the last four weeks.

With so many veterans playing their last world cup the Argentines played with such an intense passion that they had seemingly exhausted themselves by the time they lost to the Boks in the semi-finals. The Pumas were defiant to the end however. Rallying around the grizzled veteran pack the Argentine backline cut loose in the third place game. After an initial French blitz in the opening twenty minutes the Argentines replied in kind with a quick brace of tries inside 5 minutes. Suddenly the French found themselves 17-3 down despite the fact that they had been dominating the game so far.

The French tried to fight back but the Argentines fought tooth and nail every step of the way. Around the fringes the French forwards were met with a stubborn resistance by the men in blue and white hoops. Ball was slow coming back, the Argentine pack slowing the ball up at every given opportunity and frustrating their French counterparts. So great was the Argentine pressure at the breakdown that the French backline never got any good go forward ball and found themselves constantly on the back foot.

The Pumas for their part were completely ruthless. They didn't simply sit back and absorb the French attack, they struck back with scores of their own. In a display of attacking rugby sorely missing in this world cup the Argentines ran in 5 scores, including one pitch long effort by Ignacio Corleto while Argentina were down a man. France were completely dominated. They simply had no answer to the Pumas ferocious defence and opportunistic attacking play.

Argy Bargy were a joy to watch in their final game, Contopomi and Hernandez were back to their glorious best after stuttering somewhat in the earlier knockout stages. With the pressure off them the Pumas unleashed their full bag of tricks and playmakers. Fittingly, Contopomi nabbed two tries himself and the veteran prop Omar Hasan scored in his final game for Los Pumas. Third place, after beating the French in Paris, the best result an Argentine rugby team has ever enjoyed in a world cup, its not a bad way to go out at all. We should salute the latino flair of Los Pumas, many of whom we will not see playing in the blue and white of their country again. They came to this tournament as a family and played in the true spirit of the game, enjoying every minute, and although they didn't reach the final they thoroughly deserve everything they've achieved in this tournament. Not enough praise can be heaped upon Argentina, the heart of France 2007.
Argentina 17-12 France
Argentina 33-03 Georgia
Argentina 63-03 Namibia
Argentina 30-15 Ireland
Argentina 19-12 Scotland
Argentina 13-37 South Africa
Argentina 34-10 France

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