O'Gara's boot beats off persistent Pumas

Ireland 21 - Argentina 19
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The Independent Online

Both Ireland and Argentina enhanced their on-field reputations after a bruising, brutal but ultimately thrilling match which boiled up to a foaming finish here on Saturday.

Both Ireland and Argentina enhanced their on-field reputations after a bruising, brutal but ultimately thrilling match which boiled up to a foaming finish here on Saturday.

Ronan O'Gara landed a monster drop goal from 47 metres with a bare 70 seconds left on the clock to rob the Pumas of what would have been their first win on Irish soil, and therefore their second little bit of rugby history following their unique victory over France in Marseilles last week.

These days the South Americans are not so much knocking on the Tri-Nations' door as kicking it down in a bid to turn the southern hemisphere tournament into a quadrangular affair.

As for Ireland, they have shown character and flair in their three Tests, which included the prized scalp of South Africa. "I would have preferred Ronan to have attempted the kick from 30 metres," said the Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan, "but it went over and victory rounded off a satisfactory autumn for us. What we have shown is that when we get our game right we can expect to beat anyone in the world. We have now set new standards for ourselves, but we are not the finished article.

"Argentina are very serious opponents; they have just beaten France four times on the trot. They are a great rugby team and I think they have proved to the world that they are right up there with everybody."

That drop goal, O'Gara's second of the match, meant that he had scored all Ireland's points but he was just one of 16 - the Irish used the only replacement of the game - patient heroes. "I am proud of the team," O'Sullivan added. "They kept their composure and concentrated on getting field position in the second half."

The Pumas had led for the best part of 79 minutes, and had scored the only try of the game, a well-worked fifth-minute affair which was scored by the outside-centre Federico Martin Aramburu for a fifth touchdown in only his sixth Test.

That try underlined the effort being made by Argentina to expand their style of play and get the ball beyond their half-backs, although it has to be said that their fly-half, Felipe Contepomi, had a magnificent match. His pinpoint kicking, which time after time turned disconsolate Irishmen back deep into their own territory just when they had threatened to break free of the stranglehold exerted by the Pumas, was a feature of a fine, controlled Argentinian performance.

That they still appear to have little or no standing in the eyes of the International Rugby Board is little short of scandalous. There is scarcely a bean in their coffers and their players, while professionals at club level, turn out for the country for pride, plain and simple.

Their Test against the Tri-Nations champions South Africa in Buenos Aires on Saturday will be played without 10 key players. This is because the French clubs have refused to release them on a Heineken Cup weekend, and the IRB has declined to enforce a regulation to overrule that decision.

IRELAND: G Dempsey (Leinster); G Murphy (Leicester), B O'Driscoll (capt), S Horgan, D Hickie (all Leinster); R O'Gara, P Stringer (both Munster); R Corrigan, S Byrne (both 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 (capt); R Roncero (both 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).

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