Argentina reached the half-way mark of their seven-match tour of England by brushing aside the limited challenge of a makeshift North team at the McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield yesterday to complete a predictable clean sweep against the four English Divisions. It brought to an end the troubled, and largely irrelevant, Counties of Origin series, which has been the principal, and most visible, victim of the bitter wrangling between the Rugby Football Union and English Professional Rugby Clubs.
With the North being forced to field nine players involved in Anglo-Welsh matches on Saturday, it was unreasonable to expect that they could provide effective opposition. It was a situation which drew a strong protest from the North's chairman of rugby, John Spencer.
"We have been driven into a hopeless position in the struggle for power and money between Epruc and the RFU," he said. "With many of our top clubs stuffed with players not eligible for England, this is obviously the way to go. Our full-strength divisions should be playing major international touring teams. That we haven't been able to do and this has been a disgrace."
Argentina paid the North a compliment by picking a side, all of whom have played international rugby, with six of the backs and three or four of the forwards likely to be in the team to play England.
The North, ravaged by injuries and the needless unavailability of their best players, had as their first target to keep the score below the 86- 0 posted by the New Zealand Barbarians here a week ago. At least they managed that; though for some while it was touch and go.
The tourists were not long in building momentum. Their outside-half Jose Cilley, with nine caps to his name and still only 23, is a neat footballer who will trouble better organised defences than the North could muster.
He combined silkily with Eduardo Simone, who sliced through a hesitant North midfield to set up the Argentinians' first try for the flanker Christian Viel. Pablo Bouza was on the end of a forward drive for the second, and after only 10 minutes the North looked to be on the end of another heavy defeat.
While the North's attacking options were acutely limited, Gary Monaghan pounced on a loose ball for a try. John Stabler converted to add to the first of his three penalties and, momentarily, it looked as if the North might make Argentina work hard for victory.
But it was not to last. Simone added a try of his own, Toms Solari collected two and the full-back Diego Giannantonio the sixth as the half ended with Argentina 38-13 to the good.
The Argentinians slackened the pace after the interval but there was still time for four more tries, which would have been five had not the touch judge spotted Raul Perez's infringement, so the North were spared further punishment. That much they deserved.
North: Try Monaghan; Conversion Stabler; Penalties: Stabler 3. Argentina: Tries Solari 2, Soler 2, Viel, Bouza 2, Simone, Grau, Giannantonio; Conversions: Cilley 7.
NORTH: P Massey (Wakefield); G Monaghan (Waterloo), D Elliott, S Burnhill (both Rotherham), R Thompson (Wakefield); J Stabler (West Hartlepool), S Cook; M Worsley (both Orrell), T Garnett (Wakefield), S Turner, P Rees (both Orrell), P Stewart, P Angelsea (both Orrell), P Manley (Wakefield, capt), J Dudley (Rotherham). Replacements: Lee (West Hartlepool) for Elliott, 40; A Ludiman (Harrogate) for Stewart, 52; Scully (Wakefield) for Cook, 52; A Handley (Waterloo) for Stabler, 60; R Latham (Wakefield) for Worsley, 69; A Moffatt (Orrell) for Garnett, 73.
ARGENTINA: D Giannantonio; F Soler (both Tala), E Simone (Liceo Naval), L Arbizu (Belgrano AC, capt), T Solara (Hind); J Cilley (San Isidro), N-F Miranda (Hind); O Hasan (Tucuman), M Ledesma (Curupayti), M Reggiardo (Castes), G Llanes (La Plata), I-F Lobbe (Liceo Naval), G Garcia (Duendes), C Viel (Newman), P Bouza (Duendes). Replacements: R P Perez (Duendes) for Garcia, 16; R Grau (Liceo Naval) for Lobbe, 40.
Referee: D Mene (France).