Argentina are back in the quarter-finals hunt after defeating Samoa 19-10 in a bruising, scrappy Rugby World Cup pool match on Friday.
Los Pumas needed to win after the dismal opening defeat to England, and used the 13-day break to get their heads on right for the Samoans, who had only a six-day turnaround.
Argentina even denied Samoa a losing bonus point when Nicolas Sanchez booted the margin beyond seven with a last-minute penalty from almost halfway.
Emiliano Boffelli scored all of Argentina’s points for a 13-3 lead in a rainy first half and his third penalty after the rain passed extended their lead to 16-3 with 24 minutes to go.
But with five minutes left, Samoa replacement hooker Sama Malolo barged over for a converted try, and Argentina’s supporters were finally hit with a mute button. But Samoa couldn’t threaten again, the Argentines in the crowd started singing and dancing again, and Sanchez delivered the finishing blow.
Argentina has Pool D games left against Chile and Japan to rise higher in the standings, while Samoa was still in the playoffs picture but will have to beat England in two weeks.
The first half could have hardly gone better for a more composed Argentina.
Samoa fullback Duncan Paia’aua was sin-binned in the first minute for playing Argentina’s Santiago Carreras in the air.
Christian Leali’ifano didn’t relieve the pressure on Samoa when he failed to take a free kick from the mark then missed touch. Argentina’s counterattack exploited Paia’aua’s absence when the ball was spread to both wings and Boffelli went over. He made the conversion and a penalty kick for 10-0 after 25 minutes.
Leali’ifano had three penalty kicks and nailed only one, off the crossbar, in a poor kicking game all around.
Boffelli wasn’t missing though, and his third straight penalty kick made it 13-3.
Two minutes from halftime, an excellent kick-chase gave Samoa a close-range penalty but they wanted seven points. Argentina stole the lineout but Samoa got a five-metre scrum. Los Pumas, playing Samoa for the first time in 18 years, read the Samoans, though, and a blindside burst by scrumhalf Jonathan Taumateine was smothered by Marcos Kremer.
The rain stopped for the second half and Argentina continued to turn the error-prone Samoans over and around.
A Pumas rolling maul was repelled then lineout tap ball off the top looked to have Boffelli headed for a second try, but so hard was Ulupano Seuteni’s try-saving tackle that he had to go off for a head injury check.
Boffelli still kicked another penalty then finally missed a shot, but he was in the middle of the action again when he swooped on a Samoa grubber kick in front of his posts with Tumua Manu bearing down.
Samoa finally threatened the tryline with minutes left and got Malolo across for his third try in two games, but Sanchez, off the bench for his 99th cap, ensured Argentina had the last say.
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