By Frankie Deges, in Langford
Argentina Jaguars concluded another successful IRB Americas Rugby Championship campaign with a third straight victory in the tournament after a 23-14 win over Canada A at Westhills Stadium, Langford, British Columbia, on Saturday.
With their fourth ARC title already wrapped up going into the final round, the Jaguars came up against a Canada A side playing for pride and a potential runners-up spot. However that honour went to USA Select following their earlier 20-8 win over Uruguay.
Hurt by their second round loss to arch-rivals USA Select, Canada A turned in a spirited display and were dominant in the set-piece at both scrum and lineout. However the Jaguars showed a much more clinical edge and scored their two tries at a time when Canada A were down to 14 men.
Sebastian Poet kicked off the scoring early in the game with a penalty to give the Jaguars a 3-0 lead. But Canada A hit back in the 12th minute with a try through centre Michael Scholz following a break from captain and number 8, Aaron Carpenter. Jack Fitzpatrick converted to make it 7-3.
With a Canadian player seeing yellow, Argentina took full advantage to score tries through inside centre Javier Rojas and loosehead prop Ignacio Sáenz Lancuba, both improved by Poet, for a 17-7 half-time lead.
Ten minutes into the second half and with Canada restored to their full quota of players, outside centre Conor Trainor intercepted a loose pass to score under the posts. With Fitzpatrick adding his second conversion of the night, the gap was down to three points.
Urged on by the passionate home support Canada A pressed on, but they were unable to break through and the Jaguars made the match safe through the boot of replacement Patricio Fernández who kicked two penalties.
Captaining the team for the first time, hooker Martín García Veiga was happy with the Jaguars’ performance. “We are a young team and some guys will have grown a lot from the experience of playing in the ARC. All three games were tough and we had to be really on top of our game to win it (the title). Canada took the game to us and we were well tested.”
Despite the loss and their third-place finish, Canadian fly half Pat Parfrey was equally pleased with the way his side bowed out. “This is a development tournament and that we played our best rugby in the last game speaks of the way we developed throughout the tournament," he said. "This was a hard game but we played with intensity, making some big hits and also releasing our backs. We are happy with our last performance.”
USA's silver lining
In the day’s opening game, USA Select sealed victory - and ultimately second place - thanks to a clinical 10-minute period just after half-time.
An entertaining and evenly-contested first half surprisingly ended try-less, with the only points coming from the respective boots of Joaquín Prada and Joe Cowley.
But USA Select’s greater attacking intent was eventually rewarded and they raced into a 20-3 lead following second-half tries from Chris Chapman, Daniel Barrett and skipper Toby L’Estrange between the 45th, 51st and 53rd minutes.
Uruguay staged a late rally and had the final word after scoring a consolation try through replacement hooker Francisco Jiménez.
First-time USA Select captain Toby L’Estrange said. “It was a proud moment, and a good way for us to rebound after what was a hard summer. We changed the tactics in the second half and it worked. We would have really liked to have got the fourth try and secured second place earlier, but, all told, it was a great tournament.”
Uruguay flanker Joaquín de Freitas, playing in his second ARC tournament, added: “We were too focused on defence in the first half to worry about attack. By the time we changed our tactics it was too late. But we’re happy to have come here and performed to the best of our abilities.”
The full national teams of the four participating nations now head into a busy November programme, with some of the young stars on show in this year’s ARC no doubt likely to feature.
To watch full match replays of all the ARC matches, please click on the appropriate match below:
USA v Argentina
Canada v Uruguay
Argentina v Uruguay
Canada v USA
Uruguay v USA
Argentina v Canada