The Pumas: what was good and what was bad about their memorable win over Scotland in Santiago del Estero
SANTIAGO DEL ESTERO.– They will not forget the Cougars neither Santiago del Estero the first visit of Argentine rugby team to this province. He was late in giving the first meeting, as if he needed a suitable stadium. And from this spectacular, albeit small, Mother of Cities, the players take away an indelible memory: an emotional triumph and the aggregate win in series against Scotlandthe first in a string against the same rival on national territory in 15 years. And very much like Puma: with claw to turn around a wide defeat in the last effort, thanks to a great collective game try crowned by Emiliano Boffelli, the figure.
The conclusions are for when the foam of euphoria subsides. An incandescent public for the recovery, full of the enthusiasm of thousands of children and adults who had the chance to see the Pumas in person for the first time, pushed the players in light blue and white to break in the last action to the Scots and, with a 34-31 in the best of the three test matches held in the north of the country, obtained all the benefits that the victory promised them: winning the series (the first successful series on their own soil after 2007), balance in 12 the history with the British, bring joy to the people of Santiago who worshiped them throughout the week, and gain confidence and encouragement with a view to the Rugby Championship.
The other thing that was at stake, the individual yields so that Michael Sheika go configuring a “headline” base with a view to the France 2023 World Cup, more remains to be done. The Cougars they alternated good and bad; some long-standing. One goal was to improve the game. Certainly, it was not so difficult: what was done in 6-29 in Salta had been very low. The game just got better, but this time the highlight was the attitude.
On the one hand, for the predisposition to playa give each attack a high tempo. The rucks weren’t long stops to see what was going on until the team was armed; both the absolute debutant Lautaro Bazan Velez –he received his baptismal cap and proudly wore it in the mixed zone– as the experienced Gonzalo Bertranou, when he replaced him, they immediately got the ball out from down there and delivered it well. Scotland didn’t have much time to settle in after tackling. And there were almost no missed rucks, even though there were rarely more than two forwards assigned to maintain momentum and possession. In that, Argentina was much better than in Salta.
Pumas compact 34 vs. Scotland 31
For another, in the launched attack there was lucidity. Inevitable knock-ons too, yes, but the crowded skips and assaults caused British anxiety. The Pumas tries were barely four, because in contrast to the good offensive flashes more possession was missing.
And that speaks of defendingthat again, once again, was in debt. In both the speeding and stationary British attacks, there were sky-blue cracks. Missed tackles on the run and gaps in the far back wall opened the door to in-goal four times. In the middle of the second half, Argentina seemed lost and low voltagewhen the visitors took a good lead, 31-20, with an easy penalty from Blair Kinghorn in the blurry crescent of the soccer field. The fervor fueled by a dream week for fans and rugby players in Santiago del Estero faded in the face of what seemed like a sentence of defeat.
But in the first steps of the Cheika cycle the failures coexist with the successes almost in equal proportions on this campus. And a virtue of this Saturday, the lineout steals (three), was combined with the obligation to go to discount and an improvement in attitude to start the comeback. Although Bazán Vélez’s leadership could not be blamed for major defects, Bertranou’s entry contributed to the rise. In particular when the scrum-half himself got with a forward action (support on the line from a ruck) the prize of a very good associated play on the right flank. Boffelli’s precision (every delivery inside except for a very long penalty) put the Pumas within a try not converted to win.
And Argentina kept pressing. He ran over and played, against a Scotland that resisted trying not to commit infractions. When there were less than two minutes left, the locals chose a scrum, a formation with which they had made no difference, instead of a penalty outside and line, a facet that had indeed given some revenue. Risky. It was a humanistic decision of Pablo Matera: wanted the alternate hooker Ignatius Ruiz had participation in an important action, very important, in his absolute debut in the national team. And the captain was rewarded: already after the final buzzer, Bertranou showed the lucidity to change the direction of the play and on the left there was space for the handrail of which Boffelli (19 points) was the last participant, to produce a roar from the Mother of Cities.
And as in the inspired afternoon of Rosario for kicks it was not an inconvenience to support a point, the back even managed to convert, to finish with a full orchestra. The Pumas hugged each other and jumped in front of the stands to celebrate an emotional and necessary victory. Suffered, too, with a lot to analyze when the videos are reviewed with a view to the Championship. A “mixed” balance, according to Cheika’s English-Italian-Spanish at the press conference.
While leaving Santiago del Estero, surely a venue that will be incorporated as a stable in the future of the selected team, Argentina closes the July window with more joy than anguish. He will begin his journey in the Southern Hemisphere contest on August 6, three weeks from now. He knows that the material is there, and that he must be more constant. That there are new faces that can perform and historical ones that can continue. That there are old defects to banish once and for all, and also a team of good coexistence and united. That the integral game that Cheika proposes is a real possibility for a team that has historically been good in defense, and that this very thing, defense, is today a problem.
The Championship will be an excellent challenge. Not to mention the World Cup in France, the ultimate goal of the Cheika era.