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Pumas eye quarters after devouring Georgia

The sin-binning of Georgian number 8 Mamuka Gorgodze proved a turning point.

Argentina's Martin Landajo is tackled during the Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Argentina and Georgia.
Argentina's Martin Landajo is tackled during the Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Argentina and Georgia.

Argentina 54

Georgia 9

ARGENTINA MAXIMISED ON Mamuka Gorgodze’s second-half sin-binning to record a vital bonus-point 54-9 victory over Georgia on Friday to all but guarantee themselves the second automatic qualifying spot in Pool C.

Having been beaten 26-16 by champion New Zealand in their opening game, the Argentinians had to beat Georgia, who were surprise 17-10 winners over Tonga in their opener, to stay in the race for the knock-out phase.

With two remaining pool games against Tonga and minnows Namibia on October 4 and 11, both in Leicester, Argentina will be out-and-out favourites to progress alongside the All Blacks into the quarter-finals.

Argentina were made to work hard in the first-half, enjoying just a 14-9 lead thanks to nine points from the boot of influential fly-half Nicolas Sanchez and Tomas Lavanini’s solitary try while Georgian veteran Merab Kvirikashvili kicked three penalties.

But when Georgian skipper Gorgodze was rightly sin binned in the 45th minute, the South Americans made hay, scoring three converted tries through Tomas Cubelli, Juan Imhoff and  Santiago Cordero in the space of six minutes with some wonderful running rugby.

With Georgia flagging, Martin Landajo first scored, and then Cordero and Bosch grabbed their second tries, Marcelo Bosch hitting two conversions as Argentina racked up 40 unanswered points.

Sanchez got the scoreboard ticking with a cheeky sixth-minute drop-goal. As Georgia struggled to impose themselves, more pressure was exerted, the ball was moved right and lock Lavanini was on hand to crash over.

A blocking foul on Kvirikashvili by Lavanini’s locking partner Matias Alemanno saw the Georgian full-back, winning a national record 87th cap in his fourth World Cup, kick the penalty and a second shortly after.

The Pumas almost immediately restored their five-point lead after flanker Giorgi Tkhilaishvili was pinged by referee JP Doyle for a high tackle, Sanchez making no mistake with his pot at goal.

The Georgians refused to go away, however, Kvirikashvili bagging his third, and the ping-pong nature of the match continued after a second high tackle saw Sanchez again punish the Georgians.

Lasha Malaguradze went close with a drop-goal effort as Georgia, with hard-tackling Clermont flanker Viktor Kolelishvili and Toulon No 8 Gorgodze to the fore, pressed in the run-up to half-time, Argentina’s well-drilled defence holding firm.

Georgia’s hammerblow arrived five minutes into the second period, Gorgodze first penalised for a high tackle and then sin binned for preventing quick release as the Pumas pushed after a searing Sanchez break.

Lavanini was denied a second try after Doyle ruled he’d been held up over the line, but from the resulting scrum, Cubelli darted in for the first of three converted tries, a simple dart down the blindside too much for a stretched 14-man Georgian defence.

From the restart, the ball was whipped left and smart hands saw Racing 92 winger Imhoff in the clear as he outsprinted Kvirikashvili for the line.

With Gorgodze looking on from the sidelines, the Pumas nabbed the bonus point for scoring four or more tries when Cordero stepped in from his wing and showed a clean pair of heels to scoot in under the posts.

With Sanchez converting all three tries, Argentina were suddenly 35-9 up and the game was in the bag for the team that finished third in the 2007 World Cup.

The final 10 minutes saw the Argentinians turn the screw, Landajo being driven over before Cordero and Imhoff each grabbed a second try for a compreshensive victory.

Argentina scorers: Tries – Lavanini, Cubelli, Imhoff (2), Cordero (2), Landajo; Conversions – Sanchez (3), Bosch (2); Penalties – Sanchez (2); Drop – Sanchez.

Georgia scorers: Penalties – Kvirikashvili (3)

Argentina: Joaquin Tuculet; Santiago Cordero, Marcelo Bosch, Juan Martin Hernandez, Juan Imhoff; Federico Nicolás Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli; Facundo Isa, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Juan Manuel Leguizamon; Tomas Lavanini, Matias Alemano; Francisco Nahuel Tetaz, Agustin Creevy, Marcos Ivan Ayerza.

Replacements: Julian Montoya, Lucas Noguera, Ramiro Herrera, Javier Ortega Desio, Pablo Matera, Martin Landajo, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.

Georgia: Merab Kvirikashvili; Tamaz Mchedlidze, David Kacharava, Merab Sharikadze, Giorgi Aptsiauri; Lasha Malaghuradze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Mamuka Gorgodze, Viktor Kolelishvili, Giorgi Tkhilaishvili; Konstantine Mikautadze, Giorgi Nemsadze; David Zirakashvili, Jaba Bregvadze, Mikheil Nariashvili.

Replacements: Shalva Mamukashvili, Karlen Asieshvili, Levan Chilachava, Levan Datunashvili, Shalva Sutiashvili, Giorgi Begadze, Giorgi Pruidze, Muraz Giorgadze.

Referee: J.P Doyle (ENG)

© – AFP 2015

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