Argentina XV clinched the 2019 Americas Rugby Championship with a game to go after beating Canada 39-23 Friday night in Langford, BC.
With the win, Argentina XV can only be caught on standings points by the USA, and the Argentinian team has the tiebraker over the Eagles.
Tough One In Canada
Despite the 16-point margin, Argentina XV needed every ounce of their stamina and attitude to come out on top at Westhills Stadium as Canada never gave in and pushed them to their limits.
The first half was harder than the 22-6 scoreline might have suggested, even with three tries scored bringing the goal of a try-scoring bonus point within their grasp.
Argentina XV certainly could not have asked for a better start as with just 21 seconds on the clock, center Tomás Cubilla scoring after scrum-half Jamie Mackenzie’s kick was charged down.
Ciaran Hearn (two) and Domingo Miotti then exchanged penalties as defenses proved stronger than both teams' disjointed attacks.
On the half-hour mark, from an attacking scrum, two short passes and an inside pass put promising winger Matías Osadczuk away for Argentina XV’s second try.
On the stroke of halftime, the visitors had their third try after a passage of ball control and retention involving most of the team, Cubilla grabbing his second try after an offload from his fellow center Lucas Mensa.
Canada showed their commitment at the start of the second half and, having been stopped a couple of times short of the try-line, second-row Kyle Baillie was pushed over for their first try.
Desperate for the bonus-point try, Argentina XV failed to make the most of three attacking lineouts and in fact a ball lost centimetres from the line was turned into a magnificent 90-meter counterattack finished off by winger Andrew Coe. Gordon McRorie’s second conversion left the score uncomfortably close for the visitors, who now led by just two points.
Miotti increased that advantage with a penalty with 17 minutes to go after the Argentina XV players realized they needed to focus on the getting the win, rather than getting the bonus point, but once more McRorie kept Canada in touch with a penalty of his own.
The fourth try did ultimately come, after scrumhalf Felipe Ezcurra darted through the smallest of gaps close to the post to dot down and give replacement Martín Roger an easy conversion.
A forward pass denied Canada their third try, which would have meant a nervous final 10 minutes. The home side never stopped trying, but while Nakai Penny was in the sin-bin the Argentina XV wrapped up the win—and the title—with a penalty try from an advancing scrum.
“We worked very hard for this. Since we started together we spoke about strengthening the team and being serious; I think we did a good job,” said Ezcurra. “At times during the ARC we played great attacking rugby and at times our defense stood out. We knew how to win each game. Against Chile we will continue working as a team and trying to be the best we can, individually and as a team.”
“To win the Americas Rugby Championship again is extremely enjoyable; it is what we worked for," said Argentina captain Lautaro Bavaro. "Our attitude was the key aspect. We spoke about it when we started working on January 7, we said it would be our flag. We have a game left and we must not lose our focus.”