Life after BOD for Ireland
Ireland began the dreaded post Brian O'Driscoll era with a streetwise 29-17 victory over a depleted Argentina at Estadio Centenario on Saturday.
The result gives Joe Schmidt's outfit momentum going into next week's Test against the same opposition in Tucumán as they backed up their Six Nations victory with a solid performance.
Ireland had begun the game with the lion's share of possession but could not penetrate a fearsome home defence on halfway that was giving nothing.
Ten minutes passed before the Irish finally broke the line as Darren Cave, wearing the fabled jersey left by O'Driscoll, cut through before the recycled ball saw Robbie Diack butcher a three-on-one that surely would have seen Simon Zebo over. It marred what was a strong start from the flank.
Consolation for Diack came in the form of three Jonathan Sexton points after the Pumas had been spotted offside by New Zealand referee Glen Jackson.
Ireland were now in full flow as first Zebo, then Luke Marshall and Conor Murray went close within quick succession before Paul O'Connell was pinged for sealing off the ruck five metres from the whitewash. That, however, then sparked a superb Pumas counter attack.
Sexton doubled the lead in the nineteenth minute when Marshall again hit a line that took him over halfway but the momentum would shift soon after.
Nicolás Sánchez sending over three points would be the result of the Pumas enjoying their first decent ball on 27 minutes, although Santiago Cordero possibly will be feeling guilty of taking his eye off the ball when the line was at his mercy from a Martin Landajo blindside pass.
Then came a moment of controversy on the half-hour as Pumas number eight Benjamin Macome was yellow carded for taking out Andrew Trimble in the air. Many an Ulster fan would have been asking their television screens what was different about that and the red Jared Payne received against Saracens.
In the end the numerical advantage would actually benefit Argentina when Manuel Montero finished superbly in the corner, seeing off Sexton for a score that Sanchez converted from the touchline. Suddenly the Pumas were 6-10 to the good with half-time nearing.
However, Ireland would respond via an unconverted pushover try from Chris Henry off an attacking line-out that took them in 11-10 up at the interval.
The second half began with number eight Jordi Murphy carrying strongly up the middle before Sexton's trademark wraparound with Marshall in midfield led to the number ten sprinting over, with his conversion again missed, this time glancing the outside of the upright as Ireland went six points up.
It was now the case that if Ireland scored next, one would worry for the Pumas. And so it proved as with Argentina forcing their attack, Trimble pounced on a loose Sanchez pass and pinned his ears back for a clean run-in from 50 metres out. Sexton's extra two points put Ireland comfortably 23-10 to the good.
Cave then almost had a try to his name in the left corner courtesy of a sumptuous Zebo offload only for the replay showing his foot was in touch before grounding over the line.
But that only prompted Ireland to apply pressure to the throat of the Pumas, knocking over two penalties via replacement Ian Madigan's boot before Tomás De la Vega added a consolation score in the dying embers.
Tries: M Montero, De la Vega
Con: Sanchez, Iglesias
Tries: Henry, Sexton, Trimble
Pen: Sexton 2, Madigan 2
Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Jerónimo De la Fuente, 12 Gabriel Ascarate, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Benjamin Macome, 7 Tomás De la Vega, 6 Rodrigo Baez, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Matías Cortese, 1 Lucas Noguera Paz.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Lucas González Amorosino
Ireland: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jamie Heaslip, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Fergus McFadden.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)