Argentina ends poor run with 19-14 win over Italy
ROME (AP) — Argentina ended its worst losing streak with a 19-14 victory over Italy in heavy rain at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
In a match in which the lead changed five times, both sides scored a try and the difference came from goalkicking: Nicolas Sanchez hit three out of four plus a dropped goal to pass 100 points in tests for the Pumas, while Tommaso Allan, making his first start for Italy, nailed only three out of eight.
Following an audience with Pope Francis by both teams, hopes of an open, flowing match were ended as rain lashed down and ill-discipline set in. There were 25 penalties, the Pumas conceding 16, but still they prevailed. Italy hasn’t beaten Argentina at home since 1998.
After center Michele Campagnaro, like Allan, a 20-year-old making his first start, scored his first test try for Italy to lead 14-13 in the 62nd minute, Sanchez kicked a penalty in the 68th and a dropped goal in the 74th to end the Pumas’ eight-loss streak, equal to their worst run from 1910-36.
“It’s a pity he (Allan) missed a few kicks but that’s normal the first time you’re in the team with that responsibility,” Italy coach Jacques Brunel said. “Tommaso worked hard, responded well and did lots of interesting things. Campagnaro, too, and he scored a try which is great for a debut. But he had a bit of difficulty at times with the level of play.”
Italy end the autumn series with two defeats and a win over Fiji.
“Overall it can’t be seen as positive because we lost two games,” Brunel said. “If you look at the year we had, it’s a step back after a good Six Nations. But we’ve seen some good young players come through, who have developed this month.”
Allan gave Italy a 6-0 lead before Argentina scored its first try in three matches on its European tour.
The ball was spun wide from a ruck to left wing Juan Imhoff, whose shimmy made Edoardo Gori hesitate for a second and gave him time to dive into the corner in the 21st.
Allan restored Italy’s lead with a third penalty from an easy position, but Argentina was increasing the pressure and when the Italian forwards were penalized in a ruck, Sanchez kicked the Pumas into a one-point lead at halftime.
Allan had two penalty attempts at the end of the half but both fell short, and another shortly after the restart flew wide of the left upright.
Martin Castrogiovanni gave away a ruck penalty for Sanchez to boot over in the 55th but Italy returned the pressure.
Prop Maximiliano Bustos had to make a try-saving tackle on Italy captain Sergio Parisse, then the Pumas went down a man when loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza was sin-binned.
Imhoff could only swat at Allan’s cross-field kick behind his own tryline, and Campagnaro jumped onto the loose ball in the 62nd. However, Allan failed to convert and Sanchez restored Argentina’s lead with a penalty in the 68th after another ruck infringement.
Sanchez’s fourth career dropped goal gave the Pumas their biggest lead of the day, and they had to defend desperately to the end against fierce Italian pressure.