Ireland began life without Brian O'Driscoll with a 29-17 win over a weakened Argentina team in Resistencia on Saturday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
Argentina were valiant in defeat, but were ultimately outclassed by the Six Nations champions.
In a topsy-turvy first half, it was the Irish who started the strongest. The Argentinians were forced to make 28 tackles in the first five minutes, but their defence held firm. Ireland got reward for their early dominance with two Jonathan Sexton penalties giving them a 6-0 lead after 18 minutes.
Argentina were finding their rhythm, though, and halved the deficit with a penalty from the boot of Nicolás Sánchez. The flyhalf then set the game alight with some wonderful footwork, breaking the Irish line before handing the ball off to Manuel Montero, who finished in some style.
The Irish would hit back, though, as Chris Henry went over from a rolling maul. The try gave them an 11-10 lead at half-time.
Ireland extended their lead early in the second, and this time they had their backs to thank. Luke Marshall and Sexton combined to great effect in the midfield, with the latter going over for a fabulous five-pointer.
An Andrew Trimble intercept try then seemed to break the spirits of the Argentinians as the game petered out.
Ian Madigan, on for the injured Jonathan Sexton, added two late penalties before Argentina added some respectability to the scoreline with a late try.
Argentina – Tries: Manuel Montero, Tomás De la Vega. Conversions: Nicolás Sánchez, Santiago González Iglesias. Penalty: Sánchez.
Ireland – Tries: Chris Henry, Jonathan Sexton, Andrew Trimble. Conversion: Jonathan Sexton. Penalties: Sexton (2), Ian Madigan (2).
Argentina – 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Jerónimo De la Fuente, 12 Gabriel Ascarate, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo (c), 8 Benjamin Macome, 7 Tomás De la Vega, 6 Rodrigo Baez, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Matías Cortese, 1 Lucas Noguera Paz.
Subs: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.
Ireland – 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jamie Heaslip, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Fergus McFadden.
Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images