Sports

Argentina power past Ireland into semis

Argentina stun Ireland, to meet 
Australia or Scotland in last four

QUARTER-FINAL

ARGENTINA 43

IRELAND 20

Argentina stunned an injury-depleted Ireland with an early onslaught and finished at a canter to secure a 43-20 victory yesterday that sent them into the Rugby World Cup semi-finals for the second time.

Even the Six Nations champions of the last two seasons could not halt the unstoppable march of the Southern Hemisphere as the impressive Pumas joined New Zealand and South Africa in the last eight.

A blistering two-try opening and closing salvos, allied with the assured place-kicking of flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez, earned Argentina a Twickenham date with Australia or Scotland, who contested the last quarter-final this morning (Singapore time).

Juan Imhoff, who scored two tries, said it had been hard work in securing their record win over the Irish.

"It was a very tough game and we worked hard to get this victory," said the 27-year-old wing.

"We will enjoy this moment, but we will have another very difficult match next weekend. We are a really good team in offence, but the defence made the difference."

Early tries from centre Matias Moroni and Imhoff silenced the passionate Irish following in the 72,316 Millennium Stadium crowd and, when Sanchez kicked the first of his five penalties, the Pumas were 17-0 up after 14 minutes.

Ireland fought back with tries from replacement winger Luke Fitzgerald in the 24th minute and flanker Jordi Murphy shortly after the break to cut the deficit to 20-17, but three points were as close as the Irish would get.

Sanchez kept the scoreboard ticking over and clinical finishing from fullback Joaquin Tuculet and Imhoff for tries in the last 11 minutes ensured Argentina would match their breakthrough achievement of reaching the last four in 2007.

Ireland deserve credit for their comeback because for the first quarter of an hour, it looked like Argentina would romp into the semi-finals on the back of a stunning display of "total rugby".

TOTAL RUGBY

Hammering into contact and transferring the ball through the hands of backs and forwards alike at pace, it took only four minutes for Moroni to score in the corner after a sweeping move.

Six minutes later, Imhoff beat Rob Kearney in a race to Santiago Cordero's chip-through and did superbly to touch down before the ball went dead.

Ireland were able to regroup in the 17th minute when Pumas prop Ramiro Herrera earned a yellow card for a no-arms tackle and, before he returned, Fitzgerald skipped down the touchline and stepped inside Juan Martin Hernandez for a try.

It was a break up the middle from Fitzgerald, on for the injured Tommy Bowe, that sent Murphy through for a second Irish try which brought the crowd back into the match.

Ultimately, though, the absence of captain Paul O'Connell, playmaker Johnny Sexton and two regular starting flankers were losses Ireland could not afford and their quest for a first World Cup semi-final goes on.

Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip - standing in for injured talisman O'Connell - said they had been their own worst enemy.

"It is obviously very disappointing to lose in such a big game," he said.

"We didn't help ourselves at the start, but we fought back and came back into it.

"Argentina play a very expansive game and stretched us and we didn't make it easy for ourselves at times.

"But, fair play when we got back to three points, they took their opportunities to kick on and we couldn't take ours." - Wire Services.

All Blacks all fired up

QUARTER-FINAL

NEW ZEALAND 62

FRANCE 13

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen, whose team had been under fire for their early performances at the Rugby World Cup, said he hoped his team's 62-13 demolition of France yesterday morning (Singapore time) would silence the doubters.

The All Blacks went through the pool phase unbeaten, but questions were raised about their tactics after they struggled to impress in each match.

Hansen, however, said their strategies in the early rounds were part of a masterplan he hopes will end with a successful title defence.

"When you come to the World Cup, you come with a plan and we've had one," he said.

"It's probably been questioned by a few people, but the key thing is the people who didn't question it are the people within the group.

"We've trusted what we wanted to do and tonight was a reflection of where we're at."

New Zealand's nine-try demolition was by far their best performance of the tournament.

The All Blacks dominated every facet, both in the forwards and the backs, to reinforce their status as favourites to win the Webb Ellis Cup.

"It was a pretty special performance, there's no doubt about that," Hansen said.

"There's a difference between pool play and knockout play and that obviously creates an edge in itself.

"If you don't turn up, you go home. Tonight, we turned up."

The All Blacks will play their great rivals South Africa in the semi-finals after the Springboks beat Wales 23-19 in Saturday's other quarter-final.

New Zealand are sure to go into the match as favourites, but both Hansen and All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw were trying to keep a lid on the hype.

"Going into this week, we realised that the intensity was going to have to go up a notch and we prepared as such as and I thought the way we started the game was spot on," McCaw said.

LOOK MA'A: New Zealand's Ma'a Nonu (centre) charging through the French backline. PHOTO: REUTERS

EARN YOUR STAY

"The reality is all we've done is earn another week. It doesn't matter by how much, you just get to go to next week, so we're certainly not getting ahead of ourselves."

New Zealand lock Brodie Retallick, who scored the team's first try when he charged down an attempted clearance kick from French flyhalf Frederic Michalak, felt the same way.

"It was certainly a step in the right direction. It's the performance that we've been building towards, so it's pretty pleasing," he said.

"At the same time, it's only the quarter-finals so we've just earned the right to go and play next week." - Reuters.

Springboks calm before the storm

South Africa started plotting their campaign to take on an ominously in-form New Zealand in the World Cup semi-finals, saying to be the best, you have to beat the best.

Flanker Francois Louw said yesterday that he had seen only "snippets" of New Zealand's crushing 62-13 win over France in yesterday morning's (Singapore time) quarter-final, as he had been busy celebrating the Boks' thrilling 23-19 victory over Wales.

The Springboks - bidding to become the first side to lose a pool match and go on to win the trophy - have worries over hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who has a lacerated hand, and lock Lodewyk de Jager, who suffered a foot tendon injury against Wales.

BOKS' TALK: South Africa's Francois Louw believes that ?to be the best, they must beat ?the best. PHOTO: REUTERS

SURPRISE

Louw admitted that he was surprised at the surrender of the French, but insisted the Springboks do not feel overawed ahead of this Saturday's semi-final at Twickenham.

"We managed to watch snippets of it and, obviously, it was a great performance from their side (the All Blacks) and a great victory over the French. They are always going to be a strong outfit going into this tournament," Louw said.

"For us, it is not really a concern in the sense that to be the best, you have to beat the best, and we take it week by week and focus on the team that we have to face in the week.

"That happens to be the All Blacks now in the semi-finals. Our focus will be on them.

"Our paths have crossed a lot in the past and it is always a big game, a bit of a derby, really. We will plan accordingly in our preparation and work hard this week."

Louw said there was an "excitement" facing the All Blacks, especially at the Rugby World Cup.

He added: "I can imagine they are just as excited about it as we are. There are a lot of nerves, a lot is resting on this game and there is also that personal rivalry that adds a bit extra to the game." - AFP.

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