Jacob Stockdale leads the way as Ireland finish on a high with win over Argentina
Ireland 28 Argentina 19
Wing wonder Jacob Stockdale crossed for two tries as Ireland sealed an unbeaten November series with victory over Argentina.
The emergence of the talented 21-year-old was one of the real positives for Joe Schmidt and his management from this window. As long as he’s fit, the youngster is nailed on to start the Six Nations clash with France.
The head coach will be quietly satisfied with his month’s work, but there will be misgivings about the quality of the opposition provided by the two bigger named to visit Dublin this month.
This was a similar win to the hammering dished out to South Africa, although the Pumas stayed in the fight to the bitter end on a bitterly cold evening in Ballsbridge.
Perhaps the cold played a role, but it was an underwhelming occasion at a quiet Lansdowne Road.
Again, Ireland built a score and forced their opponents to chase, with two excellently worked Stockdale tries lighting things up before CJ Stander added a third for good measure.
"It was pretty special. Joe challenged me during the week to get stuck in from the start and I did that. I'm pretty happy," Stockdale said.
"It's been a phenomenal experience, you're surrounded by quality players here and that makes it enjoyable. Three wins over quality nations is great.
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"Argentina were always going to have time in the game, we're disappointed we didn't performance for 80 minutes. We'll learn from it."
Schmidt won’t be happy with Ireland’s second-half discipline and will ask questions of their defensive effort as the South Americans ran in three tries, while Munster will be sweating on injuries suffered by Chris Farrell and Peter O’Mahony that forced Ireland to finish with Adam Byrne in midfield and James Tracy on the flank.
Ireland started with real intent, running the ball with real width in the opening exchanges and working their way from inside their own ’22 to the Argentinian territory where they earned a penalty for Sexton to open the scoring after two players went off their feet at the ruck.
They almost added a try after turning down a penalty within range to run a pre-planned play that saw Bundee Aki carry hard up the middle before Conor Murray kicked for Byrne who looked odds on for his first try as Ramiro Moyano slipped but the bouncing ball skidded through his grasp.
Sexton was afforded the opportunity to double his side’s lead from right in front when Ireland’s scrum obliterated Argentina on their own put-in. Despite receiving treatment early on, the out-half made no mistake.
Emiliano Boffeli pulled a long-range effort just right after Sean O’Brien was penalised for not rolling away, and they let another opportunity pass when a lack of cohesion between centres Bundee Aki and Farrell handed the Pumas a scrum on the edge of the Irish ’22 but an early push saw Mathieu Raynal hand a free-kick to the home side.
The Munster centre then created the space for Stockdale to score a second November try. Off clean scrum ball, Farrell drew two defenders’ attention but popped the ball up for Sexton who raced into space and laid it on for the youngster to touch down.
Sexton converted to make it 13-0 to the hosts and after just 22 minutes things were looking grim for the South Americans.
With the crowd in subdued form, the game settled into a listless pattern occasionally lit up by a piece of individual play that was invariably followed by an error or a turnover.
Argentina briefly threatened ad their half-backs linked up well, but Rob Kearney ripped the ball from Nicolas Sanchez’s grasp before Ireland survived an 18-phase defensive set before the visitors turned the ball over again.
So, we made it to half-time without any further scoring but it took just two minutes of second-half action for Ireland to extend their lead and once again it was Stockdale who lit up the Aviva Stadium as he exploited a poor defensive gap between Macos Kremer and Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias and then rounded Joaquin Tuculet to score in the corner.
Sexton nailed the conversion to make it 20-0 and given the deficit Argentina had to turn down a shot at goal when Cian Healy got stuck on the wrong side of a ruck.
Sanchez went to the corner, but the danger was averted when Rob Kearney climed highest to claim the out-half’s cross-kick as Argentina again ran out of offensive ideas.
Ireland’s discipline was inviting into the game, however, with three breakdown penalties culminating in more promising attacking efforts from the Pumas who were improving as the game went on and eventually they broke through with Sanchez availing of penalty advantage for a no-arm hit by Farrell to chip through for Tuculet to pull a try back and the out-half converted to make it 20-7.
Ireland were then forced into a backline rethink as Farrell was forced off injured. With no centre on the bench, Andrew Conway came on to the wing and Byrne was redeployed to the unfamiliar surrounds of the centre.
It wasn’t to matter as Ireland turned down three points and kicked to the corner, brought the ball down with a clever transfer from Devin Toner to Iain Henderson, set up a long maul to drive their way over for CJ Stander to peel off score.
Sexton struck the post with the conversion but the result was effectively put to bed.
Argentina weren’t giving up, but once again their accuracy let them down as a long, promising build-up ended in Juan Martin Leguizamon throwing the ball into touch.
The flanker made up for it minutes later with a fine finish in the corner after Tuculet found him with a long, cut-out pass.
Sanchez hooked his conversion and when handed another penalty within Sexton’s range Rory Best pointed to the sticks and his out-half made it 28-12.
Argentina nearly signed off their season with a stunning length of the field try that was prevented by Kearney’s covering tackle on Moyano and a Best intervention on the left that looked very much like a deliberate knock-on.
The Pumas wouldn’t be denied a finishing flourish, however, and winger Moyano pounced on Sanchez’s chip to score and the out-half’s fine conversion brought the evening to a close.
IRELAND – R Kearney; A Byrne, C Farrell (A Conway 60), B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton (I Keatley 75), C Murray (L McGrath 77); C Healy (D Kilcoyne 60), R Best (capt), T Furlong (J Ryan 67); I Henderson, J Ryan (D Toner 48) ; P O’Mahony (J Tracy 75), S O’Brien (R Ruddock 63), CJ Stander.
ARGENTINA – J Tuculet; R Moyano, M Moroni, S Gonzalez-Iglesias (J de la Fuente 57), E Boffelli (S Cancielliere 67); N Sanchez, M Landajo (G Bertranou 58); SG Botta (L Noguera Paz 64); A Creevy (capt), N Tatez Chaparro (E Pieretto 65); M Alemanno (G Petti 56), T Lavanini (JM Leguizamon 64); P Matera, M Kremer, T Lezana.
Referee: M Raynal (France)