The final day of pool matches gave hope to some great spectacles of rugby. This fixture between quarter final qualifiers Argentina and the determined Namibia, who still hungered for their first ever World Cup win, was always going to be an exciting encounter.
Argentina got off to a pacey start down the wing, making 50 metres easily to be finally brought down by the scrappy Nambian defence. A knock on by the favourites gave Namibia their first possession at a scrum down, however quick interceptions made light work of their efforts. Nine minutes in and the speed of fly half Juan Martin Hernandez proved too much as he crossed over for the Puma’s first try, and with a perfect conversion by Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, they led 7-0.
Referee Pascal Gauzere debated a controversial high tackle by JC Greyling, which resulted in a yellow card being issued, and the argument of the time spent on TMO decisions being brought into question again. Iglesias racked up a further three points from the awarded penalty, but a superb kick and chase by Johan Tromp seconds later saw him gallop over for the African’s first, sending the crowd into a frenzy. 10-7 and the game was wide open for either side to take, despite the trailers being down to 14 men.
There is a lot to be said about Namibia: a side who have feature every four years without yet making it further than the pool stages are unforgivingly resilient in defeat and, after this tournament, lose a master of the game Jacques Burger to retirement. Parts of their game have a lot to be desired, highlighted especially when two tries, minutes apart, came from a lacklustre Nambian defence. Argentina’s Moroni charged through towering defenders to go under the posts whilst Agulla’s side stepping skills without doubt outplayed his opponents. 24-7 on the scoreboard and the men in blue and white dominated in the final minutes of having a one-player advantage.
Perhaps it is too harsh to say the crowd’s Mexican wave was quicker than Namibia’s attacking line, but the only player in red fast enough to impose on the Argentinians was Tromp who, mirroring his last try, chased his own grubber kick in the hope of touching down for another five points. With slightly too much power on the kick, he was defeated in the race for the dead-ball line and Argentina were back in possession.
A period of scrums on Namibia’s five metre line allowed the leaders to increase pressure on their counterparts and tenacious number eight Facundo eventually went over in the corner. Conversion wide, the score ticked over to 29-7, and was closely followed by another try, this time by prop Lucas Noguera Paz. Questioned by TMO for a potential knock on, the try was finally awarded and with a successful conversion as the half time whistle went, Argentina led comfortably 36-7.
Namibia attacked the opening minutes of the second half with confidence and constantly put the Puma’s on the back foot. JC Greyling left defenders in his dust when he sprinted from the 22 metre line under the posts for Namibia’s second try, and with an easy conversion completed, the score was 36-14. In reply, Argentina clawed another seven points with Matias Alemanno thundering over and Juan Pablo Socino taking over kicking duties with a successful conversion. At 43-14, Tromp came close again with an exhilarating run down the wing, to finally be taken into touch. However an earlier dangerous tackle by Marcelo Bosch on Kotze caught the attention of officials and earned him ten minutes in the sin bin.
A series of replacements for both sides gave them fresh legs, with Namibia gaining most from the new lease of life. Dummy runs and side-steps a plenty, they sent supporters to their feet on numerous occasions as Argentina made various handling errors. Nevertheless, a solid pass to replacement Leonardo Senatore allowed him to sprint under the posts, and with a conversion by Socino, the margin grew to 50-14. Seconds later saw Argentina reenact this phase of play, but referee Guazere disallowed the try and Argentina were forced back to the half way line. Somewhat disgruntled by this, they tore through the Nambian defence and hooker Montoya bundled over for a further five points, and Socino added insult to injury as he slotted a further two with the conversion. 57-14 soon evolved into 64-14 as they scored their ninth try courtesy of Cubelli and Socino’s conversion.
The trailers managed to squeeze out a third thanks to Eugene Jantjies in the final seconds. In good spirits, the conversion was attempted by forward Redelinghuys, much to the crowd’s enjoyment and, despite going wide, was not a bad attempt for the unlikely kicker. Final score 64-19 as Argentina’s Horacio Agulla was named Man of the Match.
A crowd of over 30,000 enjoyed a try-fest match that saw Namibia bow out of the 2015 World Cup to a huge defeat. As always, they held their heads high and look forward to qualifying for Japan 2019. Argentina, meanwhile, will have to wait until this afternoon to find out who they will face in next Sunday’s quarter final battle in Cardiff. With a week to rest, the Puma’s will certainly be riding high off the back of this glorious victory.