OSAKA, 28 Sep - Argentina warmed up for their crucial Pool C game against England in the Rugby World Cup 2019 with a morale-boosting victory against Tonga on Saturday.
Their 28-12 bonus-point win in Pool C at Hanazono broke a losing run of 10 games, with hooker Julian Montoya, above, stealing a hat-trick of tries, but the Pacific Islanders were far from happy.
Having trailed 28-0 inside half an hour, Toutai Kefu’s side refused to fold and, after Telusa Veainu had scored their first try of the tournament, they could have been awarded another right on half-time.
Winger David Halaifonua was all set to touch down in the corner when Argentina second-row Tomas Lavanini took him out into touch.
From one angle, it appeared Lavanini had used his shoulder but, after speaking to the television match official Rowan Kitt, referee Jaco Peyper ruled the tackle legal.
"I thought it was a try – I thought it was a shoulder charge," said Tonga coach Toutai Kefu.
"I looked at the front view - he did wrap his right arm and I think that’s why they probably got called off, but I thought there were a couple of 50-50s we didn’t get. It was critical for us.
“I’m used to it after four years of Tier 2. You move on. But had we got that, we would have come out with a lot more belief. It was not to be.”
Halaifonua said: "I thought it was a penalty try. He just came in with his shoulder and I was definitely going to score.
"We asked the ref and he went to the TMO, but I think it was the wrong decision. His first contact was his shoulder."
Slow out of the blocks against France last week – Argentina trailed 20-3 at half-time in that match before losing 23-21 after a last-minute penalty attempt by Emiliano Boffelli missed – the Pumas were a different outfit this time.
"Even if this was our best performance it’s not enough to play against England," said coach Mario Ledesma. "Losing the ball and missing tackles will make it very difficult. They have come here to win the World Cup – Eddie (England coach Jones) has been telling you that for the last four years."
Montoya had scored two tries in his first 43 internationals, but he was the grateful recipient of the early pressure, with wing Santiago Carreras, cashing in on a loose pass from Tonga fly-half James Faiva, also crossing after a 40m burst.
Tonga’s first attack after 29 minutes resulted from a ferocious tackle by birthday boy Zane Kapeli – much like his one on England's Billy Vunipola last week – and Veainu’s try was converted by Sonatane Takalua to make it 28-7
After the Lavinini incident – a penalty try could have also earned him a yellow card – Argentina failed to add a point in the second half.
There was just 15 minutes left when Veainu crossed again after receiving a superb flick pass from Cooper Vuna. It was a brave fightback, but it was too little, too late.