Saturday, September 08, 2007

Argentine Magic

What a fantastic start to the rugby World Cup! Few expected the Pumas to out-muscle Les Bleus in yesterday evening's curtain-raiser, but a marvelous display of commitment and application saw the French cockerel well and truly strangled.

Seemingly overcome by nerves, Bernard Laporte's players committed a horrendous amount of unforced errors, allowing Argentina to chip away at French confidence and push the game out of the hosts' reach. The kicking out of hand by both sides highlighted the contrasts, with Juan Hernandez's steepling kicks repeatedly allowing his blue and white team mates to regain possession. Stuttering and scruffy, France's kicking mirrored their play as they booted the ball back to their opponents time and again.

Whilst one bad call does not a defeat make, Laporte's decision to go with Cedric Heymans, a winger by trade, at full-back looked particularly culpable, as his poor decision-making in an alien position repeatedly placed the pressure back on blue shoulders. The half-back partnership of Mignoni and Skrela was equally indecisive, while missed goal kicks by the starting 10, and then his replacement, Frederic Michalak, were also costly.

That the generally outstanding Felipe Contepomi missed two late shots to seal the result, as well as narrowly failed to take a pass that would have seen him through for a game-winning try, underlined how Argentina richly deserved the outcome, however. In the loose they were ferocious, with Mario Ledesma and Juan Leguizamon particularly conspicuous. Their opportunism enabled them to steal a try from nothing, after a French mistake put Ignacio Corleto through, and they wisely took points from most of their forays into home territory in the first half. The way they shut up shop in the second will not have gone unnoticed by Ireland.

Only once before had the home nation lost the opening game of a rugby World Cup tournament - England in 1991. The Red Rose still managed to grace the final that year, however, and France will be hoping that their cockerel is still crowing come October 20th. On last night's showing, it doesn't look likely.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home