Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pumas/Ireland Rivalry Resume

The date; 30th September 2007. The place; Parc des Princes, Paris. The occasion; to witness one of rugby’s World Cup most decorated rivalry in recent times, if not perhaps maybe the best. For the third consecutive World Cup, Los Pumas and the boys in green of Ireland will resume their battle on the rugby pitch. And once again the stakes are no different than before, to book a place in the quarter-finals.

Since their first meeting on that famous night in Lens in 1999, Los Pumas have grown from strength to strength to become the game´s most potent force outside the Tri and Six Nations countries. While the Irish, are still very much renowned as one of the best in the world.

So what can we expect from this crucial clash of titans in Pool D? Well this time around, Gonzalo QUESADA will not be the one converting those penalties and drop goals, while Ireland will not have the legendary Keith WOOD leading them into the field. But still the main ingredients, as they were displayed in the previous two meetings, will always be there: passion, determination and full commitment.

For Los Pumas, things just seems to be getting better and better at this World Cup. Ever since that famous victory over France in the opening day right up to the demolishing of Namibia, it seems like destiny is written all over the wall for Señor LOFFREDA and his army to achieve greatness and immortality. Now the only thing that separates them from their destiny is just one point and I repeat, one point only.

At this stage, we can say that we’ve made it to the next stage but that very important one point could prove to be too much to let go. Being grouped together with two other giants, it seems the only thing we can ask for is to progress to the next stage and after that for better or worse face the mighty All Blacks. Now, avoiding them, seems more like a reality rather than a distance dream.

As for the Irish, personally I find it hard to believe that they are in this situation. Early this year during the Six Nation (very unlucky not to win it), I felt they were probably the second best team in the world. Now a couple of hard fought victories against Namibia & Georgia and a defeat to France, have left Eddie O’SULLIVAN and his boys with no choice but to win. And they also need the bonus point as well (to make things even more complicated, they must avoid Los Pumas from claiming a bonus point!!!). Their "mission impossible" consists on scoring 4 tries against the only team yet to concede a single try in the entire Rugby World Cup.

Current form may leave us with a better chance of going through but anyone who knows his/her rugby well, will tell you to never ever underestimate Ronan O’GARA, Brian O'DRISCOLL and company.
Now here is a Blast From The Past between these two respected rivals at the Rugby World Cup.

20th October 1999, Stade Félix Bollaert, Lens

If this was a boxing event, it would have probably been known as the HUMPHREYS vs. QUESADA match.

When David HUMPHREYS converted a drop goal on the 45th min, the score line was 21-9 and the Irish look all set to face France in the quarterfinals. The Irish were so confident, that some of the fans had already bought their tickets (before the match that is) for the next game schedule to be played in Dublin. But nobody would have ever expected what was about to happen.

After 3 consecutive penalties by QUESADA (47th, 55th & 65th minute) plus another one from HUMPHREYS (61st minute), the score was brought to 24-18 for Ireland. Suddenly there seemed to be very little hope for a dramatic comeback. Yet, had I tell this to anyone back then, people would have probably laughed at me.

A try from Diego ALBANESE in the 74th minute with QUESADA converting the kick gave Los Pumas a 25-24 lead and stunned everyone in the stadium. At this point of time, the Irish were in panic mode but still the game was anyone’s for the taking.

Despite plenty of retaliation from the Irish side to score a try, another penalty by QUESADA in the dying minutes, sealed the deal for Los Pumas and they achieved a massive upset over Ireland. This was a result that sent a shock wave throughout the rugby community.

26th October 2003, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide

When Ireland and Argentina were drawn together in the same pool, the one thing that people couldn’t stop talking was that night in Lens. It was so fresh in the minds of both sets of players as if it only happened yesterday. One commentator even did mention that this match was going to get both sets of supporters chewing their fingernail.

The memories came back even stronger when QUESADA opened the scoring with a 7th-minute long-range effort. Then the Irish stormed back with a try in the 17th minute courtesy of Alan QUILAN, followed by a conversion from, who else but David HUMPHREYS.

A drop goal and a penalty by QUESADA served to reduce the deficit to a single point. 10-9 was the lead in favour of Ireland at half time. Then a drop goal by Ignacio CORLETO put Argentina in the lead but two successive penalties from Ronan O’GARA saw Argentina trailing 12-16.

With seven minutes to go, QUESADA was there again to convert another penalty to again take Argentina within one point (15-16) and to bring the entire crowd to their feet for a massive conclusion. Only this time, it was a little too late for Los Pumas as Ireland held on to their nerve for the victory. Truly a blood and guts performance from both sides.

Now back to 2007. So which way is this match heading this time? Can Los Pumas gain that one point and march on to the last eight? Or will the Irish Luck finally smile on the boys in green to create a Houdini act? Only time will tell.


Matt @ Green and Gold Rugby said...

Great article guys.

Probably the most profound thing that's come out of this world cup is the way in which we now look at those nations who haven't traditionally been in the top flight. The label of 'minnow' now applies to far fewer countries (maybe only Portugal?).

Obviously Argentina stopped being a 'minnow' years ago, but my point is that with where you guys are in the rankings, and with wins like the one against the French, when do we all stop seeing your wins against the 'big' nations as 'upsets'?

There was a whole thread at (Australian site) talking about how they didn't think the France result was an upset at all, and were shocked to think that anyone who knew much about rugby did.

In my mind then, we need to stop seeing Argentina's form as a freak event, and start judging you on your results. In which case, you've got to say that on form the Irish are toast on Friday....although I'm sure this won't stop it from being a great, hard fought, game!

Anonymous said...

Great Blog!

I must admit, I wasn't surprised when the Pumas beat France. Before the game I fancied France to sneak it but I thought that it could all be very different if they got in the faces of France in the first 10 minutes, and did they ever?!

I think the Pumas have been fantastic this World Cup. They may not be a minnow any more but they certainly had the schedule problems of all the minnows and I thought beating France, then getting a bonus point out of Georgia within 5 days was a superb effort.

I think the Pumas will definitely do it and I hope they do. I say that not out of malice for the Irish, but purely out of admiration for the Pumas. I thought they thoroughly deserved their Twickenham win last year and have constantly improved since then.

Then if they can win the group then it would be Scotland or Italy in the quarters, so the semis are a definite possibility.

Come on the Pumas!

Rob Stradling said...

I have been an admirer of Los Pumas for many years. Back in 1999, I was in the Millennium Stadium cheering them on against Japan! In those days the myth that they were a "10-man team" persisted, despite Diego Albanese scoring truckloads of tries. Watching them beat Ireland later in the tournament was fantastic.

Now at last the rugby world is running out of excuses not to take Argentina seriously. They will beat Ireland again, and then Scotland, to be World Cup semi-finalists DEPSITE their unfair seeding. And I will bee cheering them on again.

Seba said...

Thank you very much for this article, John! As always...your archives hold thousands of surprises!

And thanks for the visits to Matt and the two Robs.

Let me tell you a little bit of what's going on in Argentina (from what friends and family tell me). There is a complete "PUMAMANIA". Kids are rugby-crazy, girls are in love with some players (Juan Martín HERNANDEZ heading the list of darlings for them) and even old ladies are watching.

Footballers say: "We have to defend like the Pumas" when talking about their next domestic league match (nothing to do with rugby whatsoever).

And I think all of this is a fair reward on a series of Pumas generation that are watching their beloved blue and white hoops having one great display after another and exchanging hits with the World's best teams.

Let's don't forget that there are no professional rugby players based in Argentina. If they stay at home, they hardly get an income by playing rugby. So they have to go abroad and be away from their family and their homes.

I think that match in Lens (1999) could have been a great turning point in Pumas history. The best clubs from Europe started to hire players from Argentina and the results are the ones we are witnessing these days.

Yes. We can lose against Ireland, probably qualify as second in our Pool, lose to the All Blacks in the QF and everybody will be talking about how they wasted an opportunity. But I don't care about that. I'll be happy with the beautiful ride they are giving us and for the respect they have earned in every corner of the World.

Tri Nations, Six Nations? Please make some room for us! It's the only time separating Los Pumas from being real World Cup contenders in the future.

John said...

Thank you Seba, for the compliment. And a BIG welcome to our blog for all our new readers.

It was a great pleasure to write this article as I felt there was need for it.

To me Los Pumas are a truly great example that shows Argentina is more than just football. Football will always be no.1 but the fact that when Argentina defy all the rules that makes a sport look so predictable is much more beautiful then meets the eye.

I might be too greedy in hoping that we will avoid the All Blacks but then again whatever the outcome this Sunday, I believe the Los Pumas have earned more respect and credential in their own field. Both from supporters and opposition.

I still have faith that FOREVER is going to take place on Sunday. If I am wrong than I am wrong but one thing will never change……


Anonymous said...

Think on form the Pumas will beat the Irish and fair play to them.If any team deserve to be in the quarterfinals it is the Pumas.IMHO they should be allowed to play in the 6 Nations as a lot of their players are playing in France so it might be more economically viable.As for this minnow tag I dont know why they have it as they have been producing the goods for quite a few years now.Hopefully this myth will be dispelled when they reach the semis and who knows maybe even the final.

Anonymous said...

Well all of the speculation is over and Pumas have won today and proved just what a good side they are.
I think the Pumas could go very far in this world cup. I hope so because as an Irishman the only consolation I can take is that we amanaged to at least score some tries against them today.

Buena Fortuna

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