Felipe Contepomi points the finger at Brian O'Driscoll as Puma skipper Augustin Pichot stands by. ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Bad Blood

Old friends: 5 games that define Ireland's rivalry with Argentina

Even if the rugby hasn’t always been top drawer, these battles are never anything short of fascinating.

THEY’VE BEEN OUR nearest and not-so dearest rugby relation for over a decade.

Ireland and Argentina have played 12 times. There have been seven wins for the boys in green, five for the Pumas.

There have been 29 tries, 76 penalties scored (evenly divided), 10 drop goals and who knows how many gouges, rakes and punches.

Yes, when the sides meet it’s always an enormously physical forward battle. Argentina wins have usually come with a steamroller effect, while games in Dublin (AKA Irish wins) have been torrid, dour affairs where we’ve had to work like Trojans for every single score.

It’s a rivalry unperturbed by geographical distance or historical family ties. This is a rivalry based on the fact that Argentina were unwilling to settle for being a tier two nation and Ireland, at the time, were the weak link in the old establishment.

Did we underestimate the Pumas in the 1999 Rugby World Cup?

October 20 1999: Argentina 28- 24 Ireland:  Stade Felix Bolaert, Lens.

“We’ve all been brought up on the huge rivalry that started in 1999; that famous game that we beat Ireland.” Prop Marcos Ayerza said this week.

“Since that World Cup, every time we face Ireland it’s a massive rivalry. We put our whole bodies into that rivalry and we’ll think the same (this time).”

As the only third place team to rack up seven points in the group phase, Argentina were thrown into the quarter-final qualifiers as a wildcard. In the other games; England faced Fiji, Scotland had Samoa to deal with, but we met the Pumas and the rest is history.

Astonishingly for a 52-point game, the 80 minutes in Lens brought only a solitary try. It came from Diego Albanese and it would prove the difference between the sides as all Ireland’s points came by way of David Humphreys’ right boot.

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October 26, 2003: Ireland 16 – 15 Argentina, Adelaide Oval.

Another brutal arm wrestle of a game, decided by one try. But Alan Quinlan’s left hand would be many, many months away from an actual arm wrestle as he landed horrifically in the act of scoring a try and dislocated his shoulder for the country.

We tend to look back at 2003 and wonder what might have been if Humphreys’ drop goal against Australia had stayed straight, rather than drift a  foot left of the goal, but a fit Alan Quinlan at the peak of his powers may have meant it would never have even come to that.

Those spoilsports at the IRB have removed the YouTube clip of Quinlan’s try, but we’re sure RTE will hark back to it this afternoon / tomorrow…. ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

… until then, Ouch! INPHO/Morgan Treacy

November 27, 2004. Ireland 21 – 19 Argentina. Lansdowne Road, Dublin.

Little over a year on from the World Cup, they were at it again. This time, Federico Aramburu’s try wasn’t enough to settle the game.

It had come early this time, Argentina were 10-0 up inside 10 minutes. Then ROG and  his pack went to work.

After five penalties and a drop goal, the Munster fly-half took a chance from distance, but dramatically  landed his second drop-goal of the game. With 6o seconds left on the clock, Ireland led for the first time.

Shane Byrne also looks rather happy. ©INPHO/ Tom Honan

September 30, 2007: Argentina 30 – 15 Ireland. Parc des Princes, Paris.

Between ’99 and ’03 the sides played eachother home and away, with the hosts taking the win on each occasion. After 2003 the above fixture at Lansdowne was one of three tests played. The latter two  came with  a shadow squad touring Argentina in the summer of 2007 – yet another embarrassing footnote in the shambolic build-up to that year’s World Cup.

By the time Ireland lined up in this final group game the summer tour was a distant memory, but it had given the Pumas a sniff of blood in their nostrils.

They had already shocked the hosts, France, on the opening night and after Eddie O’Sullivan’s men had scraped past Georgia and Namibia before being played off the park by France; Argentina were hovering over Ireland malevolently, eager to make our competition exit a painful one.

And here’s the second half if you can bear it.

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Ireland haven’t toured Argentina since.

November 22, 2008. Ireland 17 – 3 Argentina. Croke Park, Dublin.

Aside from Rodrigo Roncero mowing down Ronan O’Gara, this clip is a bit of a slow-burner and we join the action after Tmmy Bowe scored the only try of the game. However, it does take you nicely to the front line where you get a sense of the constant sniping that has gone on between Argentina and Ireland (particularly with O’Gara) over the years.

The highlight, for us, is the timely man-of-the-match award that allows ROG a little smug smile looking back across at Roncero.

‘How d’ya like them apples?’ He definitely didn’t say.

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“We like the Irish..,” Ayerza coughed out in response to a further query on the rivalry that has been in place throughout his career.

But the Leicester prop let slip what appeared to be more of a Freudian slip than a mistranslation immediately afterwards, “…but we don’t like them – No, we respect them a lot. They’re two nations with very similar characteristics and good passion about the game and we just want to show more passion than them.”

Gilroy earns Ireland chance against Pumas

From the archive: The Ireland vs Argentina Story: how the rivalry began

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