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18th Oct 2015

Four factors behind Ireland’s stunning World Cup exit

A step too far

Gareth Makim

Outworked and outplayed.

That’s the sad truth of Ireland’s 43-20 World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of Argentina.

Seventeen points down inside a quarter of an hour, for a brief second-half spell it looked like the greatest comeback in Rugby Word Cup history was on, but the Pumas pounced on every Irish error to convincingly put Joe Schmidt’s side away.

Yes, we were without the services of O’Connell, O’Mahony, O’Brien, Payne and Sexton, and the efforts of seven days ago against France clearly told, but there will be no excuses in the Irish camp after a quite scintillating display of skill and intensity from the Pumas.

Argentina owned the gain line

Argentina began the game at a furious pace and intensity that a shell-shocked Ireland took until half-time to begin to match.

The Pumas built up a 17-point lead within the opening 15 minutes through their complete domination of the gain line. Rare Irish spells of possession were met with fierce hits on, or often behind, the line as the likes of Iain Henderson and Cian Healy had to work extremely hard to make even a yard against Argentina’s zealous tackling.

Cian Healy tackled by Marcos Ayerza 18/10/2015

In contrast, Ireland fell off far too many tackles as Argentina moved the ball at will throughout the first 40 minutes against a deeper defensive line, rapidly going through the phases and gaining territory by the bucketload.

Ireland improved after the break, beginning the second period with a strong defensive stand and better ball carrying, but despite Ireland having a much greater share of possession and territory Argentina retained the ability to counter at lightning pace and took advantage of Irish mistakes late on.

Wide of the mark

In many ways the game was won and lost in the widest areas of the field. Argentina sought to use the full breadth of the pitch at every opportunity, exploiting two-on-one opportunities in those channels that were often created purely by the precision and speed of their passing.

Ireland v Argentina - Quarter Final: Rugby World Cup 2015

Ireland, on the other hand, were more pedestrian when it came to seeking width and the Kearneys, Luke Fitzgerald and Keith Earls more often that not found themselves outnumbered by covering tacklers.

A change in tactics yielded some success as a narrower point of attack resulted in a Fitzgerald break and a try for Jordi Murphy that brought Ireland within three, but there just weren’t enough holes in the Argentine fringes.

Losing out at the breakdown

Argentina lorded the rucks in that crucial opening 20 minutes as Irish runners were consistently met by packs of Pumas who committed numbers and controlled the breakdown skirmishes.

Ireland were much more competitive after the break as Chris Henry and Rory Best won vital turnovers, but the absences of O’Mahony and O’Brien, who dominated those exchanges agains France, were arguably the most keenly felt.

Lack of composure when it counted

Credit to Ireland, they bravely fought back into the game with tries either side of half-time, but when Argentine discipline appeared to be failing we just couldn’t get the score that would have levelled the game and really put the Pumas on the ropes.

Ireland v Argentina - Quarter Final: Rugby World Cup 2015

Ian Madigan missed a kick that would have tied it a 23-23, while a crucial lapse in concentration from Conor Murray at the base of an Irish scrum led to the try from Tuculet that broke green spirits and ended our semi-final hopes.

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