IRELAND WON THEIR first ever series in Argentina after upping their game after the break for the second week running. Trailing 10-9 at the switch-around, Joe Schmidt’s men used their dominant set-piece to set up attacking platforms, with Simon Zebo and Ian Madigan breaking the Puma lines to seal the second Test in Tucuman.
With the Irish line-out and scrum purring, Ireland went 6-0 ahead and soon had a man advantage as Matías Cortese was binned for tackling without his arms. For the second week running, Ireland failed to make the numbers count. Instead, Andrew Trimble saw yellow for tackling Jerónimo de la Fuente off the ball and thrilling fullback Joaquin Tuculet cut inside to finish off a 90-metre counter-attack for a converted try.
Sexton tagged on a 31st minute penalty for his side but captain Paul O’Connell instructed him to kick for the corner just before the break. It almost led to another Argentine try on the break, following a spill from the otherwise impressive Rhys Ruddock.
Schmidt responded to his team’s lack of forward momentum by throwing on Iain Henderson for Devin Toner at the break. Sexton missed an early second half penalty before Ireland, winning their 14th line-out in a row, worked a nice move and Eoin Reddan popped a pass for Zebo to latch on, cut inside and dot down.
Madigan replaced Sexton with 16 minutes left on the clock but missed a penalty left and wide so, at 16-10, it remained a one-score game. James Cronin and Jack McGrath were keeping up their end of the scrummaging bargain, off the bench, and Darren Cave went close after receiving an offload from the rampaging Ruddock.
Madigan was instructed to hit the corner with 10 minutes to play and Ireland put together 14 phases of a 5m line-out claim before Madigan, as his his attacking wont, found the gap to score the match-winner. Test debuts arrived for Rob Herring and Noel Reid before Gonzalez Amorosino dived over for a converted consolation try.
Two wins from two and a first series win in Argentina but, as Schmidt noted post-match, ‘the set-piece saved us’. The tour has been positive for the likes of Henderson, Robbie Diack, Ruddock, Cave and Zebo while experienced players such as Andrew Trimble and Jamie Heaslip look in need of a well-earned rest.
IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Andrew Trimble, Fergus McFadden, Darren Cave (Noel Reid), Simon Zebo; Jonny Sexton (Ian Madigan), Eoin Reddan (Kieran Marmion); Dave Kilcoyne (Jack McGrath), Rory Best (Rob Herring), Mike Ross (James Cronin); Devin Toner (Iain Henderson), Paul O’Connell (capt.); Rhys Ruddock, Chris Henry (Jordi Murphy), Jamie Heaslip.
ARGENTINA: Joaquin Tuculet; Lucas González Amorosino, Jerónimo de la Fuente, Gabriel Ascarate, Manuel Montero; Nicolás Sánchez, Martín Landajo; Lucas Noguera Paz, Matías Cortese, Ramiro Herrera; Manuel Carizza, Tomas Lavanini; Rodrigo Baez, Tomás de la Vega, Antonio Ahualli de Chazal.