Six on spin a high point for buoyant Irish

Ireland 16 Argentina 7

Hugh Godwin
Monday 25 November 2002 01:00
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Not since 1969 have Ireland completed six wins on the spin, so that was one obvious cause for celebration as the double-sized swimming pool that was Lansdowne Road emptied itself of spectators on Saturday evening.

Another was that no one had been seriously injured on a hopelessly unfit pitch, the product of gallons of rain and a half-finished refurbishment of the drainage system. "There's people building an ark down in Wicklow," reflected Ireland's coach, Eddie O'Sullivan, but at least he and not the Pumas' Marcelo Loffreda, could claim significant bragging rights ahead of the teams' re-match at the World Cup in 11 months' time.

In fact, Ireland did lose their second row, Gary Longwell, to a shoulder injury when he was tackled by Mario Ledesma in the slosh by the West Stand touchline, but the Ulsterman was up and about in the post-match reception. The contrast between these conditions and those the teams can expect when they resume hostilities can barely be imagined. The Adelaide Oval, whence England's cricketers have just beaten a hasty retreat, will be the setting on 26 October, and while one supposes it does rain in the early summer in South Australia, it cannot emulate Dublin this sodden November.

So the match as a spectacle for the 40,000 crowd was a wet-through squib, never mind a damp one, with a try to each side in the first half by Girvan Dempsey and Rolando Martín, and Ronan O'Gara's conversion and three penalties to Felipe Contepomi's conversion.

O'Gara, in the two autumn wins over World Cup opponents-to-be, Australia and Argentina, has kicked 10 goals out of 10. Other high points on the Irish learning curve are Malcolm O'Kelly's resurgence in a solid line-out, where O'Sullivan praised the work of his assistant, Niall O'Donovan, and a scrummage in which Leinster's Reg Corrigan has replaced the retired Peter Clohessy as the sheet-anchor.

The Pumas' reputation in the tight suffered some severe dents here, although they will have an unprecedented amount of time together next year to put things right. "In June we are playing France twice at home and South Africa away," Loffreda said. "Then we have the Pan-Am tournament in Uruguay in late August, and the players will be together for 40 days before the World Cup." Forty days and 40 nights: how appropriate, as the Pumas dried themselves off and reflected on a fairly comprehensive beating. Their brightest moment was the quick thinking of Diego Albanese to take a quick line-out for Martin's try in the 24th minute, soon after Dempsey had scored at the other end. In Test match terms, it was a steal in the bracket of Ieuan Evans for the Lions against David Campese. "I could have done with a television replay because I didn't even see it," Ireland's captain, Brian O'Driscoll, admitted. "It was a lack of concentration. We should have tightened up at a vulnerable time."

O'Sullivan boldly predicted that the pitch would be "like a billiard table" come the Six Nations' Championship in the new year. He is much more concerned over the 15 Irishmen currently injured, though the squad has stood the test of a longer autumn programme than any of their rivals. They have seen off Romania, Russia, Georgia, Australia, Fiji and Argentina. In 1968 and '69 it was Scotland, Wales, Australia, France, England and Scotland again, before the Welsh prevented an Irish Grand Slam in Cardiff. Up next for O'Sullivan's record-seekers in 2003 are the Scots at Murrayfield. "It's been a good few months' work," the coach said. "Maybe a change is as good as a rest for the players, as they go back to their provinces. They might be fed up of my advice by now."

Ireland 16
Tries: Dempsey
Cons: O'Gara

Argentina 7
Tries: Martin
Cons: Contepomi

Half-time: 10-7 Attendance: 40,000

IRELAND: G Dempsey (Leinster); S Horgan (Leinster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), K Maggs (Bath), J Bishop (London Irish); R O'Gara (Munster), P Stringer (Munster); R Corrigan (Leinster), S Byrne (Leinster), J Hayes (Munster), G Longwell (Ulster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), V Costello (Leinster), A Foley (Munster), K Gleeson (Leinster). Replacements: M Horan (Munster) for Corrigan 74; L Cullen (Leinster) for Longwell 27; A Quinlan (Munster) for Costello 73.

ARGENTINA: I Corleto (Stade Français); G Camardón (Roma), J Orengo (Grenoble), L Arbizu (Bordeaux-Bègles, capt), D Albanese (Leeds); F Contepomi (Bristol), A Pichot (Bristol); M Reggiardo (Castres), M Ledesma (Narbonne), O Hasan (Agen), I Fernandez-Lobbe (Castres), R Álvarez (Perpignan), S Phelan (CASI), G Longo (Narbonne), R Martin (SIC). Replacements: J Fernandez Miranda (Hindu) for Arbizu, 69; P Sporleder (Curupayti) for Alvarez, 63; M Durand (Champagnat) for Phelan, 76.

Referee: C White (England).

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