ARC - Tonga A push Argentina A
Having secured the second Americas Rugby Championship before going into the third and final round on Friday, the Argentine Jaguars found their stiffest opposition in Tonga A, who, despite losing 28-20 and going home with no log points, were delighted with the way they performed in their last game.
For the second game the drizzle stopped yet a strong wind still played a role. Tonga A, playing into the wind, took less than one minute to open the scores when the Jaguars were penalized right after kick-off and Fangatapu Apikotoa converted in front of the posts.
It did not take long for the Jaguars to reply. Two minutes later, after a scrum on the halfway line, scrum half Martín Landajo ran down the blindside, finding a huge gap that landed him, 50 metres later, in the in-goal.
Tonga showed huge commitment to the tackle for all of the following 33 minutes and reduced the home side to only two Ignacio Mieres penalties, until in the 38th minute winger Agustín Gosio scored his third tournament try after a great offload from Horacio San Martín. Although the Jaguars had played most of the opening 40 minutes in the Tongan half, the 18-3 half time score was an unfair reflection of the Pacific Islanders efforts.
Tonga A, with the wind at their backs, took the game to the Jaguars in the second half. Playing with physicality and through the middle, they were soon applying pressure with ball control. Although never in a real attacking position, they did add three points from a penalty.
Jaguars’ advantage was extended once again a few minutes later when replacement fly half Federico Nicolás Sanchez added three points with a penalty.
The Tongans had their fair reward in the 19th minute when, after driving through the middle and pushing hard, managed to cross for a much celebrated try from centre Damien Fakafanua, converted by the efficient Apikotoa.
Ten minutes later, from a kick that did not find touch, full back Joaquín Tuculet started a counter attack that, six phases later, put Juan Imhoff in for the Jaguars’ third try. It was the best try of the day.
It seemed that this would close the scoring of this ARC. Tonga A had other plans and kept probing the Argentine defence, and when Mesui Lemoto, replacement fly half, scored almost on full time, his team mates celebrated almost as if they had won.
“We had a good game, the best in this ARC and go home happy at putting together a performance such as this against a very good team,” said coach Feleti Faotusia.
The Jaguars, who fly to Russia for two games against the Russian national side, were delighted having taken the win, yet coach Daniel Hourcade acknowledged this wasn’t the best performance in the ARC. “Tonga was a very hard team so we are happy that we won. Our team had a very good preparation leading into the tournament and we managed to play some quality rugby which is very positive as we now re-focus for a hard tour.”
The success of this second edition of the Americas Rugby Championship was evident. “This tournament proved to be a very successful preparation platform for USA, Canada and Tonga in particular as they prepare for their November test programme and in terms of building their preparation plans for RWC 2011,” said Mark Egan, IRB Head of Development and Performance.
“With regards to Argentine rugby, their performance is a confirmation that the Jaguars programme is making excellent progress. I have been very impressed with the fitness and conditioning of the squad who showed superior skills and execution compared to the Tier Two union teams, who will have gained a lot from participating against a strong Jaguars team.”