Ireland suffer World Cup quarter-final heartbreak again after Argentina loss
Published 18/10/2015 | 15:41
Argentina dumped Ireland out of the World Cup for the third time as a 10-minute, two-try salvo floored Joe Schmidt's battered and shattered side at the Millennium Stadium.
The Pumas ensured Ireland's sixth quarter-final went the same way as the first five - hugely galling defeat, with Daniel Hourcade's men prevailing 43-20.
Shorn of indomitable leaders Paul O'Connell and Peter O'Mahony through injury - both sat in the stands - and without linchpin fly-half Johnny Sexton due to groin trouble, this was a match too far for Ireland.
Argentina dumped Ireland out of the 1999 and 2007 World Cups - the only two occasions the men in green have failed to reach the last eight.
The Pumas proved Ireland's bogey side once more, extending that hugely unwanted quarter-final hoodoo.
Fly-half Nicolas Sanchez ended a stellar day with 23 points, only serving to underscore what Ireland were missing in the absence of superstar Sexton.
Matias Moroni and Juan Imhoff blitzed Ireland with a try apiece inside the first 10 minutes, and in truth Ireland never really recovered.
Though Ian Madigan had shaved his head for the contest Ireland were anything but razor sharp from the off.
Argentina's raw power and passion caught Schmidt's men cold, centre Moroni powering over after a fine counter-attack.
Sanchez missed touch from a penalty, only for the Pumas to pounce on Rob Kearney's line clearance.
Pablo Matera bumped off Madigan, Joaquin Tuculet retained a high ball, and Santiago Cordero sent Moroni home.
Ireland's miserable start was compounded when Imhoff latched onto Cordero's defence-turning grubber, to dot down just before sliding into the dead-ball zone.
Tommy Bowe was turned over for the break, and hobbled off with a knee problem, replaced by Luke Fitzgerald.
Sanchez posted a penalty with Mike Ross playing the ball illegally at the ruck, before shanking a drop-goal attempt.
Ramiro Herrera was then sin-binned for a late shoulder-barge on Keith Earls, Madigan quickly posting a penalty.
Ireland's stand-in stand-off tried to tap that penalty quickly, racing over the whitewash - only for referee Jerome Garces to pull the play back.
Sanchez struck a second penalty before hitting the post with a third attempt, and then, finally, Ireland struck.
From turnover ball Ireland hit the Pumas hard, Robbie Henshaw cutting wide and sending Fitzgerald down the left flank.
The Leinster flyer scythed off his wing, rounded Tuculet and finished in style.
Madigan's conversion cut Argentina's lead to 10 points.
However sparky Madigan can be on the gainline however, every now and then the jitters hit home.
And so it proved when he fluffed a penalty attempt, moments after appearing to suffer a leg twinge only to hop back to his feet.
Dave Kearney had a dislocated finger popped back into place as Ireland's walking wounded continued to grind away, and so the scores remained until the break.
Ireland finally started squeezing Argentina and capitalising on their indiscipline after the turnaround.
Madigan punted two consecutive penalties up the line, before Schmidt's men struck again.
Fitzgerald continued his sparkling afternoon, bisecting the line, drawing the cover and sending Jordi Murphy haring home for his side's second score.
Madigan's conversion left Ireland trailing by just three points, a minor marvel given their woeful first quarter.
Sanchez and Madigan traded penalties, with Pumas prop Herrera lucky to escape a red card after smashing Rory Best illegally at a ruck.
The Argentina tighthead was ruled to have used an arm as well as his head, and so avoided his marching orders - but clearly not by design.
Marcos Ayerza was lucky to avoid a sin-binning to boot, flying off his feet at a ruck.
Madigan missed his second penalty shot of the night though, Ireland still trailing by three points come the hour.
Devin Toner was penalised for a high tackle, and Sanchez slotted the goal to push Argentina's lead back to six points.
Argentina had weathered the storm, and Ireland's small mistakes crept back in.
Madigan punted out on the full - as he tends to once a match - and Conor Murray knocked on at the scrum base.
The Pumas seized full advantage, flying clear on the left and Tuculet spun over the line to touch down at full extension.
When Imhoff swallow dived home for his second, Ireland's trouncing was complete.