Argentina on Friday re-entered the quarter-finals hunt after defeating Samoa 19-10 in a bruising, scrappy Rugby World Cup Pool D match.
Argentina needed to win after the dismal opening defeat to England and used the 13-day break to get their heads on right for Samoa, who had only a six-day turnaround.
Argentina even denied Samoa a losing bonus point when Nicolas Sanchez booted the margin beyond seven with a last-minute penalty from almost halfway.
Emiliano Boffelli scored all of Argentina’s points for a 13-3 lead in a rainy first half and his third penalty after the rain passed extended their lead to 16-3 with 24 minutes to go.
With five minutes left, Samoa replacement hooker Sama Malolo barged over for a converted try, and Argentina’s supporters were muted.
However, Samoa could not threaten again, the Argentina supporters in the crowd resumed singing and dancing, and Sanchez delivered the finishing blow.
“Against England, we didn’t do what we were supposed to do. Today we did it pretty well,” Argentina captain Julian Montoya said. “It’s a massive victory for us, very important for our tournament.”
Argentina have pool games left against Chile and Japan to rise higher in the standings, while Samoa still have a shot at the playoffs, but will probably have to beat England in two weeks.
The first half could have hardly gone better for a more composed Argentina.
Samoa fullback Duncan Paia’aua was sin-binned in the first minute for playing Argentina’s Santiago Carreras in the air.
Christian Leali’ifano did not relieve the pressure on Samoa when he failed to take a free-kick from the mark then missed touch.
Argentina’s counterattack exploited Paia’aua’s absence when the ball was spread to both wings and Boffelli went over. He made the conversion and a penalty-kick for 10-0 after 25 minutes.
Leali’ifano had three penalty kicks and nailed only one, off the crossbar, adding to his kicking woes.
Boffelli did not miss, though, and his third straight success made it 13-3.
Two minutes from halftime, an excellent kick-chase gave Samoa a close-range penalty, but they wanted seven points. Argentina stole the lineout, but Samoa were awarded a 5m scrum.
The Pumas, playing Samoa for the first time in 18 years, read the play, with scrumhalf Jonathan Taumateine smothered by flanker Marcos Kremer on a blindside burst.
“Argentina executed their gameplan really well and we weren’t able to adapt,” Samoa coach Seilala Mapusua said. “We knew that Boffelli could slot them from anywhere and getting that yellow card early on didn’t help us.”
The rain stopped for the second half and Argentina continued to turn the error-prone Samoa over and around.
A Pumas rolling maul was repelled then lineout tap ball looked to have Boffelli headed for a second try, but Ulupano Seuteni made a try-saving tackle and had to leave for a head injury check.
Boffelli still kicked another penalty then finally missed a shot, but he was in the middle of the action again when he swooped on a Samoa grubber-kick in front of his posts with Tumua Manu bearing down.
Samoa finally threatened the tryline with minutes left and got Malolo across for his third try in two games, but Sanchez, off the bench for his 99th cap, ensured Argentina had the last say.
Meanwhile, France captain Antoine Dupont has undergone surgery on a facial injury and was to return to his squad to recover, the French federation said yesterday, although it gave no timeline for when the scrumhalf might return to the field.
The 26-year-old sustained the injury in Thursday’s 96-0 win against Namibia in a head-on-head clash with opposing captain Johan Deysel.
“Following his injury sustained during the France-Namibia match, Antoine Dupont underwent surgery at Toulouse’s CHU Purpan on 22 September at around 11pm,” the federation said in a statement. “In a few days’ time, he will be able to return to the French team as part of a gradual sporting recovery under medical supervision.”
Additional reporting by Reuters
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