Ireland end series with win over Pumas
Ireland finished their autumn series with a 29-9 victory over a disappointing Argentina as Brian O’Driscoll made a record 107th Test appearance at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Most of Ireland’s points were scored in the first half as Stephen Ferris touched down, while the superb Jonny Sexton kicked the rest.
After it had degenerated into a grind, the hosts finished the match in style with a final-minute try from Gordon D’Arcy, converted by late replacement Ronan O’Gara.
All of Argentina’s points came from the boot of Felipe Contepomi, who missed three penalty kicks and a makeable drop goal in a result that flattered the Irish, who laboured at times against a Pumas team whose forwards faded and whose backs barely got in the game.
The result means that Ireland hold on to their number seven ranking in world rugby, with Argentina just behind.
Declan Kidney’s side were under the cosh for the first 10 minutes as Argentina dominated both possession and the physical battle.
The hosts somehow avoided conceding an early try after a series of scrums on their line, thanks in part to some pedantic refereeing from Mark Lawrence.
Argentina arguably should have been awarded a penalty try as Ireland repeatedly turned and collapsed, while the Pumas' finishing was also poor.
Ireland, meanwhile, took the first chance they had as Argentina’s repeated failure to find touch was finally exploited with a break that resulted in a penalty, which Sexton coolly converted.
That was 13 minutes in and from that point on Ireland controlled the game from behind the scrum, using the breadth of the pitch with intelligence, cutting Argentina apart with simple runs and quick offloads.
It was from such a move that the hosts scored in the 20th minute, when they switched play from a line-out and raced away for Tommy Bowe and Jamie Heaslip to combine in helping Ferris touch down.
Ireland were in control from then on as Sexton added a conversion and showed a calm head with three more successful penalties.
Contepomi, meanwhile, was having a dreadful day in his former home city, landing only one successful kick from three as Ireland went into the dressing room 19-3 to the good.
The second half started in similar fashion, as Contepomi saw a seemingly successful kick somehow take a new trajectory as it approached the posts.
Pumas front-rowers Rodrigo Roncero and Martin Scelzo started the match in fearsome form but neither lasted much beyond the start of the second half as they cut dejected figures with Argentina no longer even winning the scrappy encounters.
Ireland, however, were finding it difficult to get hold of the ball and eventually Argentina made some of the possession count as Contepomi found his range just before the hour mark.
It was still scrappy, as poor kicking from Ireland gave Argentina opportunities in possession that they repeatedly failed to take, while the Pumas could not get anything from the scrum.
Sexton’s kicking masterclass was not finished though, and having shown his skill from wide and short, he put one over from halfway to break the 100-point mark in his Ireland career.
That put Ireland 22-6 up with 14 minutes left, though Contepomi kicked a penalty down the middle to reduce arrears soon after.
Argentina were finished though. By the 64th minute they had replaced a now-depressed front row, and while Ireland kept handing them opportunities with poor kicking and handling, the Pumas lacked the spirit to take advantage.
In the end it was the Irish who finished with a flourish and replacement Keith Earls was denied a try by the video referee when it was deemed he lost control while touching down.
It mattered not a jot in the end as, from the resultant scrum, Ireland won back possession and D’Arcy cleverly kicked and rushed over the line.
O’Gara - returning from injury and handed a run out at the finish - converted on his 103rd Ireland game as Ireland finished the series in relative style.