Despite going 10-0 in front, the Ireland Under-21s could not contain a powerful Argentina side who ran out 26-22 winners at the IRB U-21 World Championship on Tuesday.
IRB U-21 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: Tuesday, June 13
IRELAND U-21 22 ARGENTINA U-21 26, Stade Couturier, Cournon d'Auvergne
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Fergus McFadden, Fionn Carr 2; Cons: Kieran Hallett 2; Pen: Hallett
Argentina: Tries: Francisco Albarracin 2, Matias Cortese, Agustin Creevy; Cons: Santiago Fernandez 3
Fifteen minutes into the clash in Cournon d'Auvergne, Mark McDermott's men were 10-0 up thanks to a converted try from centre Fergus McFadden and a Kieran Hallett penalty. Ireland's speedy backs were making the most of the ball that came their way.
Off a seventh-minute scrum, UCD's McFadden cut through under the posts to register the first blow. Out-half Hallett converted and pinged over a penalty on 15 minutes.
But the South Americans, who thrived in the 30-degree heat, soon clicked into gear. Their powerful pack turned the screw, paving the way for a 25th-minute try from scrum half and captain Francisco Albarracin.
An untimely yellow card for Irish skipper David Pollock helped the Pumas push on for their second try just before the break. Hooker Matias Cortese nipped in at the right corner after a series of phases.
But the Irish showed great determination and spirit to canter up the other end in first half injury-time, and wrestle back the lead. Blackrock College RFC full-back Fionn Carr split the cover defence to go under the posts and Hallett's conversion had McDermott's side 17-12 in front at the interval.
A tightly-contested second half ebbed and flowed but the Argentines bossed matters on the scoreboard. Flanker Agustin Creevy (63 minutes) and Albarracin again (72) grabbed tries with out-half Santiago Fernandez converting both.
...Agustin Creevy - one of Argentina's try scorers...
Nine points down, the gutsy Irish managed a third try in reply when the electric Carr made the corner for his second of the evening. Substitute Jonathan Sexton failed narrowly with the conversion, and time ran out on the Irish who had to settle for a losing bonus point.
Afterwards, coach McDermott conceded that his players were "gutted" to miss out on the win.
"That match was there for the taking but we lost the ball too much in contact. The Argentines won more turnover ball and if you don't use your own ball well, you won't win at this level," he said.
Ireland face Georgia, who were 62-3 losers to reigning champions South Africa today, on Saturday with the play-offs to follow next week. Ireland are currently ninth of the 12 teams in the pool standings.
IRELAND U-21: Fionn Carr (Blackrock College RFC); Ian Hanly (UL Bohemians), Tom Gleeson (Cork Constitution), Fergus McFadden (UCD), Matthew Williams (Bristol); Kieran Hallett (Bedford Blues), Paul Marshall (Ballynahinch); Darragh Hurley (UCC), Sean Cronin (Shannon), Dave Ryan (Highfield), David McGowan (Buccaneers), Devin Toner (Lansdowne), Diarmuid Laffan (Blackrock College RFC), David Pollock (Queen's University) (capt), Sean O'Brien (UCD).
Replacements used: Billy Holland (UCC) for O'Brien (11-15 mins), Paul Doran Jones (Dublin University) for Hurley (48), Stuart Philpott (Belfast Harlequins) for Cronin, Billy Holland (UCC) for Laffan (both 62), Duncan Williams (UCC) for Marshall, Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College) for Hallett (both 66), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins) for Gleeson (75).
ARGENTINA U-21: Gonzalo Sarasqueta; Gonzalo Feijoo, Matias Fernandez Gill, Federico Amelong, Matias Torre; Santiago Fernandez, Francisco Albarracin (capt); Francisco Gomez Kodela, Matias Cortese, Pedro Ledesma, Federico Angelinetti, Agustin Smidth, Agustin Creevy, Joaquin Brinnand, Benjamin Macome.
Replacements used: Carlos Roldan Verges for Macome (5 mins), Gonzalo Alvarez for Angelinetti (40-41 mins (second half), 74), Luis Francisco Piccinini for Gomez Kodela (56), Federico Meyrelles Torres for Amelong (59), Agustin Figuerola for Feijoo (68-77). Not used: Juan Avila, Nicolas Bruzzone.
Sin Bin: Pollock (Ireland) (30 mins)
Referee: Tim Hayes (Wales)
IRB UNDER-21 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP - IRELAND RESULTS/FIXTURES:
Friday, June 9:
France U-21 26 IRELAND U-21 8, Issoire
Tuesday, June 13:
IRELAND U-21 22 Argentina U-21 26, Cournon d'Auvergne
Saturday, June 17:
IRELAND U-21 v Georgia U-21, Issoire, 4.00pm (3.00pm Irish time)
Wednesday, June 21:
Matchday 4 - tbc
Sunday, June 25:
Matchday 5 - tbc