(Buenos Aires, Argentina) 15 August 1998 -- Three first-half tries, two of them resulting from misplayed kickoffs, launched favored Argentina to a 52-24 Rugby World Cup qualification win over the United States today in Buenos Aires.
A clearing kick blocked for a try and another botched restart, both following Mark Williams penalty goals, gifted the Pumas 12 points and put the visitors behind by 25-9 after 25 minutes. Wing Andre Blom's score brought the Eagles back to 31-17 four minutes into the second half, but the US comeback sputtered under pressure from Argentina's heavier forwards.
In a physical contest, the Americans struggled in the scrum and also made handling errors that short-circuited a few scoring opportunities. With the game already decided, the Pumas powered home with three scores in the final 12 minutes.
"We had difficulty, obviously, in the scrums and I was also disappointed in the restarts," US coach Jack Clark told the postmatch press conference. "There was a spell in the second half when we started to find some form, but it wasn't enough for the result."
The start-and-stop affair generally favored the beefy Puma forwards. The US edged its opponent in the lineout and tackled stoutly, led by flanker Dougald Gillies, but had no answer for Argentina's famous bajadita scrummaging. The edge up front carried through to the backline.
Wing Facundo Soler wound up with two of the hosts' six tries, while the powerful Argentine pack claimed a pushover and a penalty try. Making up for poor Puma goalkicking in recent losses to France, flyhalf Gonzalo Quesada hit for 22 points on 10-of-11 form.
US flyhalf Williams hit for four penalty goals--taking his international scoring total to 103 points. Tries came from Blom and Vaea Anitoni, his 25th in 33 international matches.
In today's other Americas zone World Cup qualifier, Canada downed Uruguay 38-15. Three first-half tries gave the Maple Leafs an early 25-3 edge, before the game settled into a stop-start affair similar to the Argentine-US contest. Flyhalf Bob Ross finished with 18 points on 7 of 9 goalkicking.
The US meets archrival Canada on Tuesday night at Club Atletico San Isidro (CASI), in the second its three round-robin games.
Final: Argentina 52 United States 24 (halftime Argentina 31-12)
Argentina: Tries: Facundo Soler (2), Federico Mendez, Manuel Contepomi, Pablo Camerlinckx, penalty try
Cons: Gonzalo Quesada (5)
Pens: Gonzalo Quesada (4)
United States: Tries: Andre Blom, Vaea Anitoni
Cons: Andre Blom
Pens: Mark Williams (4)
Referee: Scott Young (Australia)
United States: Kurt Shuman; Andre Blom, Ray Green, Mark Scharrenberg, Steve Hiatt; Mark Williams (Vaea Anitoni), Britt Howard; John McBride, Tom Billups (captain) (Kirk Khasigian), Ray Lehner, Luke Gross (Dave Hodges), Cliff Vogl, Jon Holtzman, Dougald Gillies *, Jason Walker.