O'Gara dashes Pumas' dreams

Ireland 21 Argentina 19
Click to follow
The Independent Online

A 47-metre drop goal one minute and 10 seconds from time by Ronan O'Gara earned Ireland a dramatic victory over Argentina to cap an epic seventh encounter between these two rugged teams.

A 47-metre drop goal one minute and 10 seconds from time by Ronan O'Gara earned Ireland a dramatic victory over Argentina to cap an epic seventh encounter between these two rugged teams.

Ireland were not at their best, perhaps a trifle tired after one of their more testing autumn series, but individuals were on song, which was just as well because Argentina were hungry to record their first win on Irish soil to follow their historic victory over France in Marseilles the previous weekend.

In the event, despite a magnificent performance by their fly-half Felipe Contepomi, who ran the show for most of the match, it was down to Ireland's No 10 O'Gara to steal the honours with five out of five penalties and two drop goals.

There were other less obvious local heroes, though, most notably No 8 Anthony Foley and blindside flanker Simon Easterby, who worked devilishly hard, soaking up punishment that would have finished off lesser men.

Argentina tore into Ireland from the start, Contepomi pushing and pulling the Men in Green this way and that with his accurate kicks. He was king of Lansdowne Road, a place where, for so much of this season, he has been consigned to the Leinster bench.

The only kick he missed early on was an attempted drop goal, but his two penalties and the conversion of outside centre Federico Martin Aramburu's fifth-minute try - a score which left 45,000 Irishmen speechless - as well as one breathtaking break in which he slipped at least four attempted tackles, underlined the worth of the Pumas' fly-half.

Ireland found that everything their captain Brian O'Driscoll attempted seemed to come to naught. It took them most of the first half to come to terms with the pace and ferocity of the game. In all their meetings on this ground no more than nine points have separated these two sides so at half-time Argentina had achieved something by opening up a 10-point lead.

They gradually asserted themselves, O'Gara opening his account with a simple drop goal and a penalty. Ireland pressed deeper into Pumas territory, and for long spells Argentina were limited to the occasional breakaway.

The Pumas also fed off the odd silly Irish error - one of which came when Argentina's scrum-half Agustin Pichot appeared to be held back by his opposite number Peter Stringer at the last scrum of the first half, Contepomi's third penalty ensuring that half-time cushion for the Pumas.

O'Gara and Contepomi swapped early second-half penalties but it took Ireland well into the final quarter before they had taken a sizeable chunk out of the Pumas' advantage through two further kicks by O'Gara.

And instantly Argentina set about attempting to re-upholster the scoreline. But their efforts were undone with eight minutes remaining when their No 8 Gonzalo Longo was sent to the sin bin for a line-out infringement .

The resulting penalty kick, O'Gara's fifth, brought Ireland to within a point of the 14-man Pumas and the match to a gripping finish, which saw Ireland patiently move into position and set up O'Gara for that match-winning kick.

Ireland: G Dempsey (Leinster); G Murphy (Leicester), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), S Horgan (Leinster), D Hickie (Leinster); R O'Gara (Munster), P Stringer (Munster); R Corrigan (Leinster), S Byrne (Leinster), J Hayes (Munster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), P O'Connell (Munster), S Easterby (Llanelli), A Foley (Munster), J O'Connor (Wasps). Replacement: E Miller (Leinster) for O'Connor, 65.

Argentina: J-M Hernandez (Stade Français); L Borges (Pucara), F-M Aramburu (Biarritz), M Contepomi (Newman), H Senillosa (Clermont Auvergne); F Contepomi (Leinster), A Pichot (Stade Français, capt); R Roncero (Stade Français), M Ledesma (Castres), O Hasan (Toulouse), P Albacete (Pau), R Alvarez (Perpignan), M Durand (Montpellier), G Longo (Clermont Auvergne), L Ostiglia (Padova).

Referee: A Spreadbury (England).