Ireland’s road to the World Cup final reached a dramatic end at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday, with Argentina running in four tries to crush Irish hearts 43-20.
A difficult start for Joe Schmidt’s men resulted in a 17-0 scoreline by the quarter mark with converted tries from Matias Moroni and Juan Imhoff stunning the sea of green in Cardiff.
Argentinian out-half Nicolas Sanchez and Ian Madigan exchanged successful penalty attempts before Sanchez slotted another to keep the Pumas on top. A yellow for Ramiro Herrera presented Ireland with an opportunity to build momentum and it was a 25th minute try from a darting Luke Fitzgerald that raised hopes, as Madigan converted. The Leinster out-half struck the post with a penalty attempt before a half-time score of 20-10.
Fitzgerald broke the line three minutes after the restart, finding Jordi Murphy on his outside shoulder, who went over for his first international try. Madigan’s conversion closed the gap to three points with the swing of momentum going the way of the Irish before a successful penalty put Ireland in the lead.
Sanchez replied with an impressive penalty before Argentina used effective ball out-wide to find Joaquin Tuculet in the corner for seven points. Imhoff later broke away to seal the win and his brace, as Sanchez followed with the conversion and a subsequent penalty to send Ireland out of the tournament.
MOTM: Nicolas Sanchez
How the Ulstermen rated throughout the RWC:
Iain Henderson – Ireland’s standout performer across all of the pool games. Laid down a marker against Canada and Romania in the early stages by imposing a physical presence in both attack and defence. The perfect replacement for O’Connell during the French encounter and fought until the end against Argentina. This Ulsterman will be key to Ireland’s future World Cup campaigns. (9/10)
Rory Best – Gave his all during every turn of this year’s tournament. A terrific leader in the front row and at the line-out. Always impressive in defence and often produced a turn over to help his team when on the back foot. (8/10)
Tommy Bowe – Improved as the tournament progressed, managing to secure a starting place on the wing after the Canada game. Two tries against Romania and reliable under the high ball. A knee injury early on in the quarter-final ended Bowe’s tournament on an unfortunate note, news from a scan should be released later this week. (7/10)
Chris Henry – The grafter of the squad. Impressed from the bench and filled O’Mahoney’s boots after France. Should have a future with the squad given his high work rate and ability at the breakdown and in the loose. (6/10)
Jared Payne – Injury plagued Payne’s contribution to the tournament but the centre took a try against Canada and performed well against Romania. If fit, his partnership with Robbie Henshaw would have continued. (6/10)
Darren Cave – Gave a threatening performance in the centre against Romania, and faired well when moved to outside after Payne’s departure. No further inclusions but shined when the opportunity presented itself. (6/10)
Paddy Jackson – The one appearance from the bench during the Romania game did not set Jackson’s World Cup on fire but he did what was asked of him. The young out-half can now return to Ulster with World Cup experience under his belt. (5/10)