Hard to begrudge the brilliant Pumas their World Cup semi-final spot

Argentina swatted Ireland aside to move into the last four.

Murray Kinsella reports from the Millennium Stadium

20 MINUTES AFTER the final whistle, the Pumas were still out on the pitch, sharing a special moment with their band of passionate supporters.

There was Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, shoulder to shoulder with the brilliant out-half Nicolas Sánchez. The youthful energy of Tomás Lavanini and Pablo Matera was still flowing.

Leonardo Senatore celebrates winning with his son Leonardo Senatore thanks the Pumas fans. Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO / INPHO

Out in the middle of the pitch was captain Agustín Creevy, swinging an Argentina flag over his head after 80 minutes of spoiling Ireland possession. In little pockets around a stadium that had suddenly emptied of green jerseys, the Pumas’ fans rejoiced and sang.

Even the most disappointed of Ireland supporters wouldn’t begrudge the Argentinians this utterly deserved and convincing victory. The emotion on the pitch afterwards was a reflection of what we saw beforehand, with tears shed during the national anthem.

Head coach Daniel Hourcade also cut an emotional figure in the coaching box as Argentina wrapped up their win, the cameras flashing to him and his staff hugging.

It’s part of our DNA, we play with our heart in our hand,” said Hourcade post-match in the Millennium Stadium. “We feel it inside and the players showed this on the pitch before the game, after the game. It was the same for us (the coaches), very emotional.

“It showed on the camera, and my mum is ill so that made me emotional, that’s all. Also, with the national anthem, the emotion we feel is something that translates onto the pitch and that’s the most important thing.”

When Creevy arrived into the press conference room following the Pumas’s hugely impressive victory, he blurted out a happy ”¡Buenas!” to the assembled media, the smile still spread across his face.

“I feel amazing, it’s been amazing,” said Creevy. “I don’t know how to explain it. We’ve been looking for this for such a long time and I still can’t get my head around it. I don’t know what to say, I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that we’re in the semi-finals.

Agustin Creevy celebrates winning Creevy was elated by the Pumas' win. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s a dream come true for many people. We’ve been working towards this for a very long time and it’s not just the players, it’s the coaches, a lot of people working all week, the medical team, I don’t want to forget anyone. Everyone is part of the journey and this success belongs to everyone, to Argentinian rugby.

“Our growth has been amazing, so I can’t put my happiness into words.”

Whatever about the passion and joy that drives this wonderful Argentinian group, they play a quality of rugby that Ireland simply couldn’t live with in Cardiff this afternoon. Their defence was aggressive and their attack cut Ireland to ribbons.

The manner of the victory pleased Hourcade as much as the fact that Argentina are into a World Cup semi-final, he being such a devoted advocate of an offloading, high-tempo approach.

“We are happy because we won playing really good rugby, the rugby we want to develop. Not for 80 minutes, but particularly at the beginning and end of the match. We’re very happy.

“I feel very proud of the way that we played. We did everything to avoid (conceding) a try at the end and that’s the heart this team has. We feel immensely proud of our players, who are the main protagonists here. You always talk to me, but the staff behind me work very hard.”

Martin Landajo celebrates winning Scrum-half Martín Landajo celebrates his side's success. Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO / INPHO

Out-half Nicolas Sánchez was sublime in orchestrating the Pumas’ performance, classy, composed and always decisive on the ball. His kicking was exceptional, from the tee, from hand and on restarts.

“He played really well and he carried out the game plan really well,” said Hourcade. “With Juan Martín (Hernández) next to him, he plays even better and he’s been so effective. I’m very happy because Nicolas is a great player and he’s a very complete, all-round player.”

There’s something special in this Pumas squad and they will move on to next weekend in Twickenham with belief that they can beat Michael Cheika’s Wallabies. The fact that they seem to enjoy playing together so much makes them hard not to like, and it seems the Pumas will draw on the neutral support.

They might even have Diego Maradona back in the stands, the legendary ex-footballer having promised to return if the Pumas reached a semi-final.

“Anyone who comes to see us is welcome as long as they support us,” said Creevy with another wide smile. “Maradona did make that promise and I don’t know what will happen now. We’ll see, maybe he will be there supporting us.”

With or without Diego, these Pumas will take come beating.

Two of Argentina’s tries made for an absolute masterclass in finishing

‘We let ourselves down’ – Madigan making no excuses after Ireland bow out

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