How cruel that it should have been Diego Dominguez who condemned the Pumas to defeat in the Group B also-rans' match in East London yesterday. Dominguez is the living embodiment of how Italian rugby has sapped the strength from its transatlantic cousin, writes Steve Bale.
Not literally, because in terms of muscle-power the Puma forwards have more than anyone at this World Cup. But the drain of players from South America to Italy - there are said to be 300 Argentines playing there - effectively means Argentina can never pick their strongest team.
This is partly by design, since the Argentine Rugby Union bans any player who goes to Italy and then expects them to spend two years suspended in the unlikely event that they decide to come home. So once the outstanding Dominguez, 29, who like at least 40 per cent of the population of Buenos Aires is of part-Italian descent, headed for Milan he was lost for good.
Yesterday, at the Basil Kenyon stadium, he scored 21 of Italy's points and, equally to the point, the try four minutes from time which gave the Azzurri their victory. It is no exaggeration to say that, had he been playing for the Pumas, they would probably have won all three of their pool matches, including the one against England.
Argentina outscored Italy in tries by four to three, but Jose Cilley had a dire day when kicking for goal and, in any case, the Pumas' rugby has become so one-dimensional that, to an extent, they have forfeited the sympathy that would otherwise be due for losing each of their three games in South Africa by an excruciating six points.
What they do - tight and loose forwards battering an upfield path off the base of a fearsome scrum - they do exceptionally well. The trouble is that they do little else, and although they reached half-time with a Rolando Martin try and penalty try to their credit, Dominguez's kicking for his adopted country meant Argentina had gained no advantage from the wind.
Italy eventually found a way through with a two-try burst in two minutes by Paolo Vaccari and Mario Gerosa, but Argentina led after Matias Corral's and Cilley's tries. Finally, Dominguez gave the Azzurri some justification for their pre-tournament confidence. But, like the Pumas, they still have to go home today.
ITALY: L Troiani (L'Aquila); P Vaccari (Milan), S Bordon (Rovigo), I Francescato (Treviso), M Gerosa (Piacenza); D Dominguez, A Troncon (Milan); Massimo Cuttitta (Milan, capt), C Orlandi (Piacenza), F Properzi-Curti, P Pedroni (Milan), M Giacheri (Treviso), O Arancio (Catania), J Gardner (Roma), A Sgorlon (San Dona).
ARGENTINA: E Jurado (Rosario); D Cuesta Silva (San Isidro), L Arbizu (Belgrano), S Salvat (Alumni, capt), M Teran (Tucuman); J Cilley (San Isidro), R Crexell (Rosario); M Corral (San Isidro), F Mendez (Tucuman), P Noriega (Hindu), G Llanes (La Plata), P Sporleder (Curupayti), R Martin (San Isidro), J Santamarina (Tucuman), C Viel (Newman).
Referee: C Thomas (Wales).Reuse content