Argentina Sets Up Japan Showdown after Routing Chile at the Rugby World Cup

AP Photo/Themba Hadebe
Argentina’s Nicolas Sanchez, bottom, celebrates scoring his side’s first try against Chile during a Rugby World Cup Pool D at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes, France, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.

NANTES, France (AP) — Argentina set up a winner-takes-all clash with Japan for a Rugby World Cup quarterfinal spot after dominating Chile 59-5 in a rousing first South American derby on Saturday.

Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez enjoyed a perfect 100th test with 20 points and a try and became the Pumas’ all-time leading point-scorer in the tournament. His seven-for-seven goalkicking and leadership will also make coach Michael Cheika reconsider whether to continue with Santiago Carreras as their 10 against the Brave Blossoms.

“(Japan) are a great team. They are quarterfinalists from the last World Cup and we’re not, so we’re very hungry to be in that position,” Cheika said.

AP Photo/Jeremias Gonzalez
Argentina’s Nicolas Sanchez scores a conversion after his team’s first try during the Rugby World Cup Pool D match between Argentina and Chile at the Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes, France, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.

He wasn’t sure if Argentina has hit top form in time. “You can never measure it and it is never linear, you are never going to go up and up.”

Sanchez became the second Pumas centurion after Agustin Creevy, who also marked a personal milestone with a try as he tied Mario Ledesma as their most capped Rugby World Cup player in his 18th match.

Los Pumas scored eight converted tries: Flanker Juan Martin Gonzalez grabbed two, and the others went to Carreras, fullback Martin Bogado, winger Rodrigo Isgro, and replacement Ignacio Ruiz. Their fifth successive 50-plus points win against Chile earned Argentina’s second biggest Rugby World Cup win after beating Namibia 63-3 in 2007.

“The intensity was good,” Cheika said. “We handled the occasion well, we respected the opposition a lot, and some of the things we wanted to work on were there.”

But the biggest cheer came from the large contingent of Los Condores supporters, who were loud before kickoff and raised the roof seven minutes from the end when replacement hooker Tomas Dussaillant was bulldozed over the line in a rolling maul. Chants of “Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole! Chile! Chile!” rang around Stade de la Beaujoire.

“They showed what Chilean rugby is about,” Chile coach Pablo Lemoine said. “This Rugby World Cup has given us a lot and put Chilean rugby on a different path. We expected the World Cup to help Chilean rugby, and we did it.”

Sanchez got the first try, nine minutes in, breaking three tackles to get into the right corner.

“It was very special for me,” Sanchez said. “My family are here, 100 caps. I am very happy.”

Gonzalez followed with his first try from a lineout maul. Another rolling maul sent Creevy over and they were 24-0 after 24 minutes.

Isgro’s yellow card in the 26th for a high tackle on flyhalf Rodrigo Fernandez slowed down the Argentines, who became wasteful in the face of Chile’s diehard defense.

Chile started the second half with a surging run by center Matias Garafulic but Argentina claimed the bonus-point fourth try minutes later when Bogado weaved past three defenders to touch down.

Chile’s red-shirted hordes erupted in the 51st when hooker Augusto Bohme scored from a lineout trick. But video showed a forward pass, and referee Paul Williams was obviously reluctant to rule it out, which he did.

AP Photo/Jeremias Gonzalez
Chile’s Matias Garafulic, right, and teammate Tomas Dussaillant celebrate after Dussaillant scored their teams only try during the Rugby World Cup Pool D match between Argentina and Chile at the Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes, France, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.

Isgro, the Olympic sevens bronze medallist, made up for his yellow card with his try, Gonzalez received an overlap to score his second try, Ruiz’s smart pick-and-go made it seven tries, and a breakaway from Carreras completed a solid performance from the Pumas.

Carreras converted the last two tries with Sanchez off and Argentina extended its overall winning record against its neighbor to 37-0.

Los Condores brushed it off as they waved to their legions of fans. They also lost to Japan, Samoa and England but conquered the Rugby World Cup as far as they were concerned.

“There are so many people who don’t come from the rugby culture that are starting to follow us and feel inspired by us. They want to support us and keep on pushing us,” captain Martin Sigren said. “It is hard to put into words what it means to represent this group of players, coming from so far down. We have fought really hard to get here.”