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Argentina creates History

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by Rajitha Ratwatte

Under 10,000 spectators at Bankwest stadium in Sydney. Argentina undercooked said the experts, they had not played as a team for 13 months (since the last World Cup) 12 players had caught the virus and even the coach had been a victim. Argentina would have watched the last game played by the Wallabies and also the world cup semi-final and learned that the All Blacks are beatable, if their plan ‘A’ is disrupted, they don’t seem to have a plan ‘B’. The general opinion of all the experts with the exception Andrew Mhertens, the former All Black no10 was that the All Blacks would win easily, and the reason was that Argentina hadn’t played for over a year. What about fresh legs, I thought to myself and doesn’t commitment and attitude have anything to do with it?

Argentina kicked off with Angus Gardiner refereeing. Right from the start it was obvious that the Argentina Pumas had come to play, and they meant business. A deliberate knock on by All Blacks no11 Caleb Clark in the second minute could have been yellow carded by a lesser referee, but a penalty was awarded instead. The Pumas no10 Sanchez tried an early drop goal in the third minute but missed. Argentina was giving no quarter and in fact they tackled relentlessly and gave no room for the All Blacks three-quarters to run with any room throughout the match. The rough house tactics paid off, a penalty was awarded against the All Blacks in the fourth minute on the 50-meter line right in front of the posts. No problem for Sanchez and the Pumas straight into a 0- 3 lead. Another deliberate knock on but this time well inside the Argentina territory was awarded just a penalty (no yellow card) and since it was right in front of the posts Ritchie Muanga kicked it over 3 – 3, 13th minute.

The rough house tactics and untidy play continued with penalties awarded willy-nilly. In the 18th minute an Argentinian attacking move resulted in a try and they were playing under a penalty advantage as well. As soon as the referee’s hand went out giving the penalty advantage, Sanchez the brilliant Puma stand-off, chip kicked over New Zealand line, picked the ball up and scored under the posts. No question of missing maximum points and the score 3 -10.

A penalty awarded to the All Blacks was reversed when their hooker slapped an Argentinian player right under the referee’s eyes! This reflected the extent to which the All Blacks had been rattled by the Argentinian tactics. Totally unprofessional behaviour from Dane Coles, of all people! Penalties were being milked by both sides, in the 14th minute Aaron Smith in the no 9 jersey for the All Blacks, deliberately passed the ball onto an Argentinian player who was trying to get onside, Argentina retaliated with a player running onto Jodie Barret of the All Blacks after a challenge in the air. Again, this second incident could have been escalated to a tackle without arms and even resulted in a red card, but good sense prevailed. Angus Gardiner is one of the better referees around, but I wish he wouldn’t try to tell the props how to bind in the front row. He has obviously never been anywhere near a front row when playing the game and theory alone, doesn’t suffice in the front row!

All Blacks’ mistakes continued and in the 25th minute another kick able penalty was awarded, mid-left around 32 meters out and Sanchez obliged 3 -13 to the Pumas. The intensity was such that Pablo Matera of the Pumas and Lennert – Brown of the All Blacks both went off for HIA checks in the 28th and 30th minutes. Lennert- Brown’s departure saw Ricco Ioane come on at center for the All Blacks much to my dismay.

It was proved to be a mistake with Ioane dropping a vital pass on a move that looked like a certain try at a crucial stage of the game. In the 36th minute, Argentina crossed the New Zealand line once more but desperate defence from Aaron Smith and Ritchie Muanga saved the day. It took 32 minutes before the first scrum was held and Argentina gained a very kick able penalty straight away, 3 – 16 to the Pumas. At this stage it was clear that the All Blacks were being upstaged by the sheer determination and commitment of the Pumas. It was only a question of if they could handle the pace of the game for the full 80 minutes. Half-time came with the Pumas leading by the same margin of 13 points.

The scrappy play continued as far as the All Blacks went but it seemed to be a carefully orchestrated plan by the Pumas. A penalty was awarded to Argentina 35 meters out and mid-left and the lead was extended, score reading 3 – 19.

The All Blacks started to bring on the bench in the 48th minute with Codie Taylor at hooker, Ricco Ioane (this time officially at center, he was on earlier briefly as Lennert- Brown went for a HIA) and Hoskins Sotutu in the third row.

In the 52nd minute, the All Blacks after two successive penalties scored far left. A straight throw to Aardie Savea standing at the front of the line out caught the Pumas defence napping and Sam Cane the All Blacks skipper scrambled over the line. Muanga converted brilliantly and the score was 10 -19. Ritchie Muanga was caught off-side in the 56th minute and the result penalty was converted by Sanchez 10 -22. More changes from the bench for the All Blacks, Brad Webber came on at half -back for Smith and Damien McKenzie for Goodhue. This was the point at which Ricco Ioane dropped the ball at center from a move that looked like certain points and would have made the margin much smaller and possibly even changed the result of the game. Ritchie Muanga joined in the mayhem and tried a chip kick that resulted in giving the ball straight back to a blue and white player.

In the 69th minute, a kick able penalty was awarded to New Zealand and this was the first sign of lack of on field thinking and ability to adapt showing its ugly face, something that has dogged the All Blacks in recent times. At this stage the on field thinkers, or ‘brains trust’ (yes, such things do exist in Rugby Union!) in the team should have realised that this game was no cake walk. The margin was such that multiple scoring was needed, three points should have been taken. However, a kick for touch was the preferred option.

Two more kick able penalties were also discarded for a scrum and a short tap respectively. Argentina’s defence was unyielding and of course in retrospect it was obvious that all kicks should have been taken to keep the margin at reasonable levels.

Hoskins Sotutu made a nice break from no 8 off an attacking scrum but threw the ball wide without running for the line. Argentina was dominating at this stage and turnovers in loose play were almost par for the course. A penalty against the All Blacks around 55 meters out, with the angle to the posts was kicked over by Sanchez and the score read 10 -25 and Argentina was poised on their first ever victory over the All Blacks in the history of the game.

The full-time hooter sounded and just afterwards, Caleb Clark scored his first try for the All Blacks after back to back penalties. A tough kick was missed by Muanga and the full-time score read 15 – 25, a historic win for Argentina, against all odds and thoroughly deserved.

One thing for sure, there is no such thing as an expert in the game of Rugby football. Undercooked they said, All Blacks to win by 40 points said John Kirwan, to use an Argentinian beef-based analogy, underdone they may have been but it was still a prime rib eye steak.



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Ahinsa becomes youngest medallist at Commonwealth Games  

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Eighteen-year-old Nethmi Ahinsa from little known Indiminna, Pannala became Sri Lanka’s youngest medallist at the Commonwealth Games as she beat Australia’s Irene Symeonidis in the 57kg weight class to win a bronze medal in wrestling in Birmingham on Friday.  She also became the country’s first medallist in the not so popular sport as she beat her Australian counterpart 10-0 in the freestyle event in the bronze medal fight.

She had to settle for the bronze medal after being eliminated by Indian Anshu Malik in the semi-final bought.   The wrestler from Welpalla Maha Vidyalaya advanced to the semi-final with a 10-0 victory over 34 year-old Cameroon athlete Joseph Emilienne Essombe Tiako. She hails from a family of four children.

Following her victory, she thanked her parents for allowing her to engage in the sport and expressed her gratitude to T.S. Suranga Kumara who not only trained her but also looked after her providing nutrition and other needs.

She said that there had been so many stories and even films on how coaches go out of their way to help their athletes achieve success but her coach was a living example of such a story.

She took to wrestling after her friend Chamodya Keshani invited her to join training in 2018. Incidentally, Keshani too competed at the Commonwealth Games in the 53kgs weight class.

She said that she did not have a wrestling mattress when she first began training but later received the support of the national federation to obtain one. After doing well at recent junior events she had also received the support of Crysbro for nutrition and also trained abroad after National Olympic Committee identified her talent.

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Georgia Baker lands third gold of Games in road race

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Australia’s Georgia Baker claimed her third gold medal of the Commonwealth Games with victory in the road race in Warwick.The Australian team were well placed in the run in for a bunch sprint and gave Baker, who won gold on the track in the points race and team pursuit, the perfect lead out for her to come out on top in a time of two hours 44 minutes and 46 seconds.

Scotland’s Neah Evans finished strongly but the line came too soon and she had to settle for silver with Baker’s compatriot Sarah Roy taking bronze, with the leading 24 riders all finishing on the same time.Baker was quick to pay tribute to her team-mates after the Australian train helped set up the victory.

Baker said: “This one is extra special. It was a real team effort.

“I wish I could split this medal into six, it was real credit to the team and I’m glad I could pull it off for them.

“There was a little bit of pressure coming in but we also knew we had one of the strongest teams here. The girls did an amazing job covering all the moves.

“For them to nail the final lead out made my ride so easy. I finished with fresh legs and that was the goal. I did the sprint and got my hands across the line.

“From the start of the race it was, if the race went the way we wanted. If it was going to be a bunch sprint I would be sprinting, if it was going to be an aggressive and hard race where the other nations were going to make it super hard, then potentially Alex [Manly] would be sprinting.

“We made the call out there with about 20km to go and I was feeling good so we stuck to the plan and the girls [the Australia cyclists] led me out beautifully.”

Scotland went into the race with just two riders instead of the maximum allowed six riders per team and Evans set the tactic was to keep the workload low and cover any moves from the favourites.

She said: “We knew there were a few big, strong teams here, so the plan was to just try and follow any moves and don’t actually do any work.

“Then, if it came to a bunch sprint, we would do what we could (and) wing it. It worked pretty well.”

Evans has won two silvers and a bronze, but added: “I will have to come back in four years as there is one missing that I really want to try and get. But it has been a brilliant Games for me.” (www.birmingham2022.com)

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Isipatana hang on to down Joes 16-13

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by a Special Sports Correspondent

Isipatana College did well to overcome stiff resistance from St. Joseph’s College and record an exciting 16-13 win in the second match of the ‘Super Round’ Inter-school under 19 league rugby tournament match worked off at Havelock Park yesterday.Isipatana taking a comfortable 7-0 lead at the ‘breather’ suddenly found the going tough when the Josephians came back strongly with an improved performance in the second half.

It was all happening for both teams in the second half. Isipatana were made to sweat in the second half because of two yellow cards to their players and Joes earning a try, a conversion and two penalties to boost their score. The Josephians too had a yellow card shown to one of its players in the first half.But if there was one player who stood strong like a wall for Isipatana it was winger Rinesh Silva who handled kicking duties with the accuracy of a professional. He slotted in three well-taken penalties in the second half and kept the score board ticking for Ispatana.

Joes produced the scares for Isipatana seven minutes from the end when number eight Naveen Marasinghe crashed in for a try. Ruchira Rodrigo slotted in the conversion, but the Joes were foiled there onwards by a determined Isipatana defence.The game was forced to a ten minute stoppage in the first half due to the absence of an ambulance on the field. At the time of the interruption to the game both ambulances hired for the game were busy taking two injured Josephians to hospital. Referee Yatawara came in for much praise for looking into player safety and being adamant that an ambulance must be present at the match venue for the game to continue.

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