Buenos Aires — Argentina’s Jaguares won a post-siren scrum against the head on their 5m line to edge the Auckland Blues 23-19 on Saturday in a Super Rugby round-three thriller.
Trailing by 11 points with seven minutes remaining, the New Zealanders had got back into contention when flanker Dalton Papalii scored a try that flyhalf Otere Black converted.
That cut the gap to four points and opened the possibility of a first win this season for the Blues after losses to the Crusaders and the Sharks. They laid siege and their hopes heightened when the Argentines were penalised resulting in a 5m scrum with a Blues put-in at a tense Estadio Jose Amalfitani in Buenos Aires.
However, a concerted push by the home side enabled them to secure possession and as the ball was hastily booted into touch, the final whistle sounded.
A dramatic conclusion was fitting as there was nothing to choose between the teams in a contest that could have swung either way on a balmy night in the Argentine capital.
“Congratulations to my team for their outstanding defence throughout the match,” said Jaguares skipper and centre Matias Orlando, deputising for injured Jeronimo de la Fuente.
“We came under a lot of pressure at different stages of each half and our refusal to concede was truly inspirational. I believe we deserved the victory over very good opponents.”
Success was achieved despite the blow of losing star hooker Agustin Creevy midway through the opening half with a suspected rib injury.
Winger Ramiro Moyano scored the only try of the first half after 38 minutes to give his side an 11-9 half-time advantage. There appeared to be little threat to the Blues when the Argentine international received the ball in the middle of the pitch, but his strength and speed took him over in the corner.
He struck again on 65 minutes to regain the lead for the Jaguares after a fourth successful penalty from six attempts by Black had nudged the Aucklanders into a 12-11 lead. Moyano sped along the touchline, then cut inside to score and fly-half Joaquin Diaz Bonilla converted for a six-point advantage.
That increased to 11 points when substitute hooker Julian Montoya was credited with a pushover try, which the referee could not review because video replays were unavailable.
Then came the last drama inside the Jaguares 22 with the Blues creating and squandering a chance to snatch victory.
Winning lifted the Jaguares three places to sixth in the combined standings, three points behind the leaders and defending champions the Crusaders.
The Blues did collect a losing bonus point and it pushed them up one place to 13th, ahead of the Reds and Chiefs.