Argentina humbled by seven-try Ireland
IRELAND 46 ARGENTINA 24
Ireland fullback Simon Zebo beats the tackle by Gonzalo Camacho to score in the corner. Photo: Reuters
DUBLIN: Argentina suffered a record 46-24 defeat by Ireland at Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday, as the hosts secured their place as a second-tier nation ahead of next month's World Cup draw.
An under-pressure Ireland turned on the style to score seven tries against Santiago Phelan's men, in a comprehensive display that made one question how they had endured such a torrid 2012 to date.
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Ireland's Tommy Bowe is tackled by Argentina's Juan Imhoff (C) and Juan Martin Hernandez. Photo: AFP
Jonny Sexton, Craig Gilroy, Simon Zebo and Tommy Bowe stood out for the hosts, and it took two tries in the last five minutes to make the scoreline look less embarrassing for Argentina.
Incredibly, observers had struggled to pick a winner in this game - pre kick-off, at least - with a question hanging over which side would be sharpest.
When Ireland hammered Fiji 53-0 in last weekend's non-cap international in Limerick, it was done with just three players from the team that had lost to South Africa the week before.
Craig Gilroy, the trick Ulster winger, bagged a hat-trick and he was the only one to force his way into the starting line-up against Argentina, and it proved to be an inspired call.
Argentina, meanwhile, were playing their 12th game of the season, a year in which they made their debut in the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship.
They beat Wales 26-12 two weeks ago, before going down 39-22 to France last Saturday, but had promised that they would not be tired when they landed in Dublin.
The first half suggested otherwise. Not only were their legs and lungs expended, their necks will have hurt trying to keep track of a rampant Irish backline.
Phelan started all bar three of the team that beat Wales a fortnight ago, with Maximiliano Bustos making his debut in the front row.
However, it was Ireland debutant Gilroy who is most likely to frame his cap from this clash.
The Ulster man took just 11 minutes to score, and when he did it was with a shimmying run that fans of Barcelona's football superstar Lionel Messi would have appreciated.
Conor Murray fed Sexton from the back of a maul, the out-half drew Santiago Fernandez, and his inside pass found Gilroy, who had plenty yet to do.
Three stunning side-steps later and the 21-year-old touched down.
It was a sixth try in three appearances in green, although the first one to count officially.
Sexton added a second try five minutes later, after some great work from club mate Gordon D'Arcy, and in doing so the out-half passed 250 points for Ireland.
Having scored just two tries in their previous five tests, Ireland added a third on 21 minutes when Richardt Strauss got his first international try, forcing home after a maul from his own line-out.
Argentina put Ireland under fleeting pressure, and Martin Landajo's break required late intervention from Donnacha Ryan and Zebo to stop a certain try.
As if irked by the attempt to score, Ireland upped a gear and after a monster catch from Bowe off a Garryowen, Ireland pummeled the Argentine defence, and eventually it was Zebo touched who touched down in the corner for his first try.
It took just six minutes for Ireland to prove they had learned from the second-half collapse against South Africa, when Bowe sprinted after a clever chip from Sexton, outpacing Landajo and Juan Imhoff to collect the ball and score.
The Irish were not interested in leaving anything to chance, and Sexton scored his second -- and Ireland's sixth -- on 52 minutes, once more showing some great footwork to step inside the cover and stroll home.
Ireland emptied the bench, as Argentina laboured on with 14 after Bustos was sent to the sin bin, and Bowe went over to register his 26th international try.
Leonardi and Lobbe crossed the Irish line as the minutes counted down, but this clash was over before the half-time whistle.
IRELAND 46 (Craig Gilroy, Jonny Sexton 2, Richardt Strauss, Simon Zebo, Tommy Bowe 2 tries; Sexton 3, Ronan O'Gara cons; Sexton pen) bt ARGENTINA 24 (Tomas Leonardi, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe tries; Juan Martin Hernandez con; Nicolas Sanchez 4 pens) at Aviva Stadiumi. Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)