The evening after the all-night Parisian party – the Champs Elysees log-jammed with locals honking horns, dancing on car bonnets, waving flags naked from the top of lamp-posts and lining up to perform Schadenfreude hakas in front of larger-than-life images of Dan Carter and Co in the window of the adidas store – the World Cup champagne feeling turned more than a little flat here on the north side of the French capital last night. A muted atmosphere of hungover disinterest prevailed as Argentina and Scotland plodded through a quarter-final depressingly short of fizz.
Only in the final quarter did the match spark to life, a Chris Cusiter try and Chris Paterson conversion cutting the Argentine lead to 19-13 with 17 minutes remaining. The Pumas – a prosaic, functional shadow of their hitherto dynamic selves – kept the Scots at arms-length thereafter, resisting one desperate late attacking fling to claim their first ever semi-final date, against the Springboks on Sunday evening. "This is one of the greatest achievements in Argentina's history," Marcelo Loffreda, the Pumas' Leicester-bound coach, trumpeted in the aftermath.
There will at least be one last chance, then, for an Argentine tango in Paris. For Scotland, though, the carnival is over. "Argentina had a bit of a stranglehold for three-quarters of the game and it was difficult to break free," their coach, Frank Hadden, reflected. "Some of our decision-making was poor, whereas Argentina were street-wise and sharp."
Hadden had spoken optimistically in the build up of his team being equipped with the tools required for the job of getting into the last four. The trouble was the Argentine box was stuffed pretty full with a variety of implements.
As the opening quarter unfolded, Argentina chose to take on the Scots at their own game, Hernandez attempting to outdo Dan Parks in a garryowen-fest that had the locals in the crowd whistling in derision. After one monster touch-finder from Hernandez, though, the Pumas had a chance to pounce in the right corner, hooker Mario Ladesma getting bundled into touch as he went for the line before referee Joel Jutge called play back for a line-out obstruction, allowing Felipe Contepomi his first pot at the posts.
Thankfully for the Scots, he pulled his penalty shot wide and a minute later Hadden's men were three points to the good. A penalty just inside the Argentine half was deemed out of Paterson's range but Parks stepped up and delivered. The place-kicking Contepomi brother did the same, albeit from closer range, and then repeated the feat before Scotland contrived to drop their toolbox and shoot themselves in the foot in the 33rd minute.
Parks' telegraphed attempt at a clearance kick from 15 metres out was read all the way by Gonzalo Longo. The balding No 8 charged the ball down and then beat Sean Lamont to the line to apply the try-scoring touch. Felipe Cotempomi added the extras and, though Paterson landed his first penalty just before the break Argentina went into the second-half with a 13-6 lead.
Paterson and Contepomi brothers then traded penalties but when Hernandez landed a left-foot drop from the 22m line the victory looked to be as good as in the Argentine bag at 19-6. But that was before Hadden changed his crew just before the hour, releasing Cusiter, Kelly Brown, Craig Smith and Scott MacLeod from the bench.
Three of the quartet cut free in style, Smith making a charge that paved the way for the move in the left corner that culminated in Brown breaking on the blindside and slipping a pass inside for Cusiter to score. Paterson added the conversion. Sadly for him and for Scotland, though, despite a late chance in the right corner – when Parks marginally overcooked a chip intended for Sean Lamont – they were to be the last Caledonian points of the tournament.
Argentina: I Corletto (Stade Francais); L Borges (Stade Francais), M Contepomi (Newman), F Contepomi (Leinster), H Agulla (Hindu); J M Hernandez (Stade Francais), A Pichot (Racing Metro, capt); R Roncero (Stade Francais), M Ledesma (Clermont Auvergne), J M Scelzo (Clermont Auvergne), I Fernandez Lobbe (Sale), D Albacete (Toulouse), L Ostiglia (Agen), J M Fernandez Lobbe (Sale), G Longo (Clermont Auvergne). Replacements: R Alvarez (Perpignan) for I Fernandez Lobbe 51; J M Leguizamon (London Irish) for Ostiglia 55; O Hasan (Toulouse) for Scelzo 57, M Senillosa (Hindu) for M Contepomi 67.
Scotland: R Lamont (Sale); S Lamont (Northampton), S Webster (Edinburgh), R Dewey (Ulster), C Paterson (Gloucester); D Parks (Glasgow), M Blair (Edinburgh); G Kerr (Edinburgh), R Ford (Glasgow), E Murray (Northampton), N Hines (Perpignan), J Hamilton (Leicester), J White (Sale, capt), A Hogg (Edinburgh), S Taylor (Stade Francais). Replacements: A Henderson (Glasgow) for Dewey 41; C Smith (Edinburgh) for Kerr 57; S MacLeod (Llanelli) for Hamilton 57; K Brown (Glasgow) for Hogg 57; C Cusiter (Perpignan) for Blair 57; S Lawson (Sale) for Ford 68; H Southwell (Edinburgh) for Lamont 68.
Referee: J Jutge (France).Reuse content