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Rugby World Cup 1999 :
Argentina Upsets Ireland

By Adrian Porter

TWICKENHAM, ENGLAND, 22 October 1999 - It was always predicted that there would be an upset of some kind in this World cup tournament with a team of outsiders beating one of the major players. So it's hardly spurprising that some savants of the rugby world have chosen Argentina's victory over Ireland in the play-offs for the quarter finals as that defining occasion.

For me, that grossly underrates the Argentine side with its patriotic will to win allied to a great deal of skill and courage. Argentina was regarded as one of the "medium grade" participants while Ireland, with its high profile role in European rugby, was seen aas one of the "majors".

What was overlooked in the forecasts was the visible decline in Ireland's abilities over the past few years plus what one commentator rightly described as "its inglorious Cup campaign".

So Ireland went down 24 to 28 in a game that saw them squander chances and resort to a tight but featureless game-plan of kicking. It might have been successful but time and again the Irish lost their concentration and gave away penalties. Although, this is not to overlook Argentina's incredible defence under tremendous pressure in the closing minutes of the game.

It was, however, a game of kicking rather than of exciting open play. Ireland scored their points from seven penalty goals and a dropped goal. Argentina's outstanding fly-half, Gonzalo Quesada, also scored seven penalty goals and clinched the victory with his conversion of the only try of the match.

Argentina now faces France in the quarter finals and with France playing almost as badly as the Irish at the moment, the chances are that the South Americans will, achieve their highest point in international rugby by making the semi-finals.

The two other winners of the play-offs were England who beat Fiji 42 - 24 and Scotland who beat Samoa 35 - 20. Both these games were closer and tougher than the score lines suggest and it was a measure of the winners towards the losers that both the Pacific Island sides were given ovations as they left the field.

The Fijians, in fact, were invited at the end of the game to do a lap of honour round Twickenham, the home of English rugby, to huge cheers and applause from a sporting crowd which casts aside natural partisanship when it recognises great performance.

The islanders played good, fast, open rugby which opened up England's defences at times and only poor and unlucky finishing prevented the Fijians from scoring at least two tries which might have turned the match.

In the end, the English tactical ploys proved their superiority. These included a magnificent, hanging punt by fly-ball, Johnny Wilkinson, which flank forward, Neil Back, caught on the Fijian try line to touch down for a stupendous score.

Much was expected fornm the Scotalnd-Samoa game with players of both teams known for their open, running game. The first half, particularly with poor passing.

It picked up in the second half asa game of contrasting styles. Scotland saw its strength in the forwards and they were used as a battering ram to push through Samoan lines while Gregor Townsend, the star fly-half who is mostly known for his mercurial running, chose instead to go in for tactical kicking to force the Samoans back into their own half.

When possible, the Samoans chose the open game with their sturdy, fleet-footed runners trying relentlessly to break through the Scottish defence. It was exhilirating and they showed they are world-class players.

So, now, the Pacific Islanders go home facing debts and overdrafts for, as amateurs, they financed their tour from their own money. Not for them the rich sponsored deals and fast cars of the professional players in other parts of the world. Instead they have only rugby balls - plus pride and toatal commitment

In the meantime, the teams which have made it through the quarter finals have a few days to lick their wounds. The casuality list is critical for some sides. After some of the games, dressing amenities of soft, inflatable chairs to rest weary limbs, elasticised bandages, rows of bottles of salve and masseurs and - for some lucky guys - masseuses.

If they can manage to get full teams together, the following will contest the quarter finals: Wales v Australia, South Africa v England, France v Argentina, and New Zealand v Scotland. Some great days should lie ahead.
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Adrian Porter spent a working lifetime as a foreign correspondent for the BBC and other news organisations in various parts of the world. He writes on rugby and cricket for Culturekiosque.com.


Opening article: Rugby World Cup 1999 : Forecasts and a Guide to the Game

Rugby World Cup 1999 : Opening Games Wrap-up

Rugby World Cup 1999 : Second Round Games Wrap-up

Rugby World Cup 1999 : Dirty and Vicious Play

Read Adrian Porter's archive articles on the Cricket World Cup

Opening article: Domination is the Name of the Game
Results of 1st Week: A Commonwealth Row and High Tech Foul Up Cricketing Traditions
Results of 2nd Week: Umpires Upset Bookmakers With Excessive Wide Balls
Results of 3rd week: Zimbabwe and Bangladesh topple giants to make "Super Six" round
First week of the "Super Six" Pakistan and South Africa in arm-pumping finish
Second week of the "Super Six" Australia snatches victory from South Africa


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