Played on Saturday Argentina fell to a 21-8 defeat against England. It was Los Pumas’ third defeat in 2017 against the English and the fourth in the past twelve months.
The team has an appalling record of 1-9 this year. But that statistic pales in comparison to another. Indeed Argentina have lost 16 in-a-row against Tier One opposition. Since defeating South Africa in August 2016 Hourcade’s team has lost 16 out of 18 games. The wins came against Japan and Georgia.
Five talking points of Los Pumas’ performance are as follows:
Flawed Game Plan
Hourcade cannot get Argentina to win games. While player options are limited due to the non-selection of European-based players there is an ongoing flaw – Argentina’s game plan. Against England Los Pumas dominated both possession (62%) and territory (66%) yet they were unable to score points. The one try opportunity was in the final minutes. Hourcade and his staff have simply got their approach wrong. An adjustment of tactics, particularly the use of forwards is paramount. All Tier 1 opponents have been able to withstand the pressure. Moreover, the policy of running from the deep is well overdue to end. Play in the opposition half and bait the opponents into making mistakes in their own territory. England, New Zealand and South Africa all did so vs Argentina this year.
The hard Men
Yet again the hard men that are Pablo Matera and Agustín Creevy performed well. They both excelled as ball-carriers and tacklers. This has been the case all year long. Joining them in the pack with a strong performance was Marcos Kremer. The 20-year-old slotted in nicely at flanker. He had a high work-rate around the park, showing great maturity. Tomás Lavanini returned to the team and also performed well for Argentina. Matías Alemanno is another to have had a good match overall. Though his missed tackle on Alex Lozowski ultimately saw Semesa Rokoduguni scoring. Tomás Lezana was a mixed bag as his carrying saw multiple knock-on’s though he was, overall, another positive.
Argentina’s line-out was perfect at Twickenham. From their 16 throws all were won cleanly. Both Agustín Creevy and Julián Montoya found their jumpers every time. Pablo Matera who, in theory, is the fourth choice jumper at best was a regular target and he was flawless. The scrum was not perfect but was remarkably better than that from the Rugby Championship. The decision to drop Lucas Noguera Paz and start Santiago García Botta was successful. García Botta put in the performance of the year thus far from an Argentine Loose Head prop.
Substandard Scrum Half
All the possession and territory was not enough for Argentina to win. With better distribution and decision making from scrum-half perhaps Los Pumas could have done better. Starter Martín Landajo had a poor match. His passing was erratic as runners caught the ball above their heads and below their knees. It was also far too pedestrian. Landajo was slow at delivering play. With 12 minutes remaining Gonzalo Bertanou replaced Landajo and the distribution improved. He now ought to start against Italy with Sebastián Cancelliere being his deputy.
Emiliano Boffelli got Argentina on the board early. His long-range penalty would be Argentina’s only success at goal all match. Fly half Juan Martín Hernández missed two relatively easy kicks and his replacement, Nicolás Sánchez failed to land now from in-front. Boffelli missed his second attempt from long-range. The return from this was a dire 16.6% success rate at goal and furthermore Hernández and Sánchez were both outplayed by George Ford. Fly half is again under scrutiny as Argentina struggle.