Rugby union

El­ton’s late rocket seals elec­tri­fy­ing Baa- Baas win

The Observer - Sport - - Sport Cricket - Ger­ard Meagher Twick­en­ham

A bolt- on fi xture to a bloated au­tumn pro­duced a breath­tak­ing fin­ish as El­ton Jantjies gave a timely re­minder of just how valu­able a late drop goal can be, com­plet­ing a stun­ning come­back for the Bar­bar­ians against an Ar­gentina side who have now lost six matches in a row.

Jantjies’s kick wob­bled its way over but, af­ter Lood de Jager’s con­verted try had pulled the Bar­bar­ians level at 35- 35, it was enough to seal vic­tory . To do so with a drop goal was fit­ting be­cause, as the Bar­bar­ians coach, Rassie Eras­mus, pointed out, his Spring­boks were left to rue not tak­ing that op­tion against Eng­land a few weeks ago. Eng­land, too, were crit­i­cised for not do­ing so against New Zealand seven days later and as Jantjies wheeled away in cel­e­bra­tion in the 79th minute, it is easy to see why.

“We didn’t in the Eng­land Test match, we took it through 20 phases and we could have drop- goaled it,” said Eras­mus, whose squad in­cluded 10 play­ers in­volved against Eng­land last Sat­ur­day. “There was the op­por­tu­nity to do it there but we didn’t. The boys learned that and took it tonight.”

Ar­gentina will won­der just how they ended up on the los­ing side but 17 penal­ties against is a key rea­son. They were 21 points ahead af­ter half an hour, 14 up at half- time but as the Bar­bar­ians emp­tied their bench af­ter the break, they seized the ini­tia­tive.

Only 31,000 peo­ple were in at­ten­dance – dou­ble that were here last year for the match against New Zealand, which says a lot about the pull of the All Blacks and plenty about how clut­tered the in­ter­na­tional cal­en­dar has be­come. Vic­to­ries like these then, are all the more im­por­tant for the Bar­bar­ians’ fu­ture. “A lot of peo­ple have asked how can you squeeze an­other game at the end of a long sea­son, but we see this as an honour to be a part of,” Eras­mus said.

It must be said it was an ex­per­i­men­tal Ar­gentina side. Their coach, Mario Ledesma, made 10 changes but if any­thing this de­feat only serves to re­in­force their lack of depth. There is plenty of cav­alry for Ledesma to call on next year and they do tend to pick up in World Cup years, but Eng­land and France, who oc­cupy the same pool in Ja­pan, will not be overly con­cerned on this ev­i­dence.

The Bar­bar­ians got off to the per­fect start with Juan Manuel Leguiza­món, who has 85 caps for the Pu­mas, col­lect­ing Schalk Brits’s off­load and go­ing over on the right. But Ar­gentina’s re­sponse was em­phatic with tries from Matías Or­lando, Ramiro Moy­ano, Pablo Mat­era and Se­bastián Can­cel­liere. All were con­verted by the fl y- half, Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, who played with poise through­out the fi rst half, but to demon­strate Ledesma’s prob­lem, he is 29 years old and has three caps.

If the Bar­bar­ians had been strug­gling un­til that point, they seized their mo­ment to­wards the end of the fi rst half and hit back with a penalty try af­ter a driv­ing li­ne­out with all 15 play­ers pil­ing in. It brought a beam­ing smile to Eras­mus’s face and was so ef­fec­tive the Bar­bar­ians did it again early in the sec­ond half, this time Han­dré Pol­lard com­ing up with the try.

Ar­gentina re­sponded in kind with Julián Mon­toya go­ing over at the back of a driv­ing maul, but their lead was swiftly back to within seven with Damian de Al­lende – so im­pres­sive here against Eng­land – win­ning the foot race to Jantjies’s grub­ber kick.

By now, Ar­gentina were hold­ing on with the infl uence of Siya Kolisi and Jesse Kriel grow­ing for the Bar­bar­ians. In­deed, it was the lat­ter’s break up the mid­dle that led to De Jager’s score with four min­utes to go be­fore Jantjies sealed the un­likely turn­around.

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