This week the looming prospect of a southern hemisphere rugby landscape without South Africa got a step closer with the Springboks’ withdrawal from this year’s Rugby Championship.
The Argentina Jaguares scored a late intercept try in their 34-23 victory over the Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
The Reds had come off a close loss to the Chiefs last week in Waikato and were looking to beat international opponents at home for the third consecutive time. The Jaguares continued their stunning form last week, defeating the Waratahs in Western Sydney last round.
In Scott Higginbotham’s 100th match for Queensland, both sides were unable to land any meaningful blows in the first ten minutes as each side felt each other out.
In the 12th minute, a huge shot from Taniela Tupou on Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro changed the momentum of the match and the Reds seized control.
In midfield, Samu Kerevi did what he does best and bust through two Jaguares defenders. It looked as if he would step off his right but instead drew in the last defender and passed to Chris Feauai-Sautia. Feauai-Sautia had no-one in front of him as he strolled in for the first try of the match. Bryce Hegarty added the extras from in front as the Reds took the first lead.
From the kick-off, Agustin Creevy drew a penalty for the visitors and Joaquin Diaz Bonilla put through the penalty goal to reduce the margin to four points.
Almost exactly the same as the previous kick-off, the Jaguares got some of their own medicine. Tupou bought the home side a penalty for not releasing the ball and the Reds looked to make the most of the opportunity. Unfortunately for them, Liam Wright knocked the ball on close to the line to halt the momentum.
Just after the twenty-minute mark, Hegarty was able to put over a penalty kick for the hosts after the referee, Jaco Peyper, penalised the Jaguares for the tackler not releasing.
Three minutes later, the Jaguares hit back.
Attacking inside the Reds’ half, the Argentinians worked towards the right flank before placing a neat grubber kick in behind the defensive line. Chasing through was Santiago Carreras and he showed some neat skills to keep the ball on the toe, get a favourable bounce and slide over for an excellent try, the first of his Super Rugby career. Diaz Bonilla could not kick the conversion.
The Jaguares then had the last say of the half when they scored another five-pointer from close-range.
Ten metres from the line, Diaz Bonilla straightened up the attack before popping a beautiful pass to his left to put Matias Moroni in space. He was taken down but scrum-half Felipe Ezcurra dummied and darted to sneak over for his first try in Super Rugby. This time, Diaz Bonilla did kick the conversion.
Hegarty managed to score another penalty kick for the Reds after the siren to leave the home side only two points behind at the break, 15-13.
Six minutes after the interval, Hegarty added yet another three points to the Reds’ score as they continued to accumulate points.
But the Jaguares scored another try when they struck in the 55th minute.
The visitors pounded the Reds’ defensive line, phase after phase beginning to tire out the Reds forwards. Eventually, the resistance cracked and replacement hooker Julian Montoya crashed over from close range. Diaz Bonilla’s conversion meant they led 22-13 with 23 minutes left.
The Reds struggled to fire any return shots at the Jaguares as the Argentinians’ experienced bench took control of the match.
Liam Wright got two penalties out of the Jaguares for not releasing the ball when they were close to the line, but the continuous onslaught paid dividends.
Once again, the Jaguares strangled the Reds inside their own half and the ball was tipped off to Marcos Kremer. Kremer tucked the ball under his wing and barraged over his defender to score next to the posts. Diaz Bonilla’s conversion seemed to signal the end of the contest but the Reds kept fighting.
With just minutes left, the Reds mounted one last surge, attempting a rolling maul from 15 metres out. It was not going anywhere so debutant scrum-half Scott Malolua released it out to Matt McGahan. He found Hegarty who saw plenty of space in front of him as he charged towards the line.
He drew in two defenders before handing it to Jock Campbell who stepped and wriggled his way to the line. He managed to force the ball down on the chalk to give the Reds a glimmer of hope. Hegarty’s conversion made it 29-23.
The Reds regained possession for a chance to try and win the match and Kerevi put a kick in behind the line. The Jaguares recovered possession but were rushed into a scrambled clearance kick. It landed back in the hands of Kerevi just before the halfway line and they looked to break down the left wing. Santiago Carreras read the play beautifully though and managed to intercept Kerevi’s pass.
He streaked away over halfway, being chased by Hegarty. Hegarty showed some great pace to gain ground on Carreras but the Argentine winger had enough in the tank and scored the match-sealing try. This time, Diaz Bonilla was unable to kick the conversion but it mattered none, the Jaguares securing a 34-23 win over the Reds.
The Reds put in a gallant effort against a Test-quality outfit but could not get the result they so dearly wanted. They play their last home game of the season next Friday night against the Blues from Auckland.
The Jaguares have made it six-from-six in Australia and their impressive form continues. The Argentines return home after a hugely successful tour of New Zealand and Australia and will play the Sharks next week.