Two tries by centre Miguel Avramovic helped Argentina to a 26-0 victory over Uruguay in Buenos Aires on Saturday evening and a place in Rugby World Cup 2007.
The Pumas, who have played in all five previous Rugby World Cup tournaments, will now join hosts France, Ireland, a third European team and the top qualifier from Africa in group D.
Fly-half Federico Todeschini converted both tries and kicked four penalties to complete a satisfactory victory for the Pumas in what were monsoon conditions at the San Isidro Athletic Club.
“I thought that we played the conditions well today to get us the result that we needed to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2007,” said Argentina captain Agustin Pichot. “We are delighted to have qualified. Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle for all players and we now have a great opportunity to go to France and prove what we can do.”
The opening exchanges of the match were scrappy as both sides attempted to adjust to the slippery conditions that cam as a result of a heavy thunder storm an hour before kick-off. With the rain lashing down, the opportunity to play positive open rugby was limited, and although Argentina did try to stretch a brave Uruguay side, it was down to the Pumas forwards to lay the foundations for victory.
While virtually all the first half play was contested inside Uruguay’s half, the visitors proved with some ferocious tackling that they intended to upset the form book.
The Uruguayans showed tremendous commitment to prevent Argentina from crossing the try line in the opening forty minutes, holding up flanker Martin Schusterman over the line in the 31st minute.
It was left to Todeschini, who had an impeccable evening with the boot in conditions that were not akin to place kicking, to steer Argentina into the lead, kicking three first half penalties to leave the home side with a 12-0 advantage at the interval.
Despite a brief respite from the rain in the second half, the wind in the San Isidro Stadium picked up, adding a new problem to what was already proving a difficult match – a lack of consistent kicking.
Faced with wave upon wave of Argentine forward drives, the brave Uruguayans began to tire and Argentina took a vice-like grip on the match when Uruguay captain Rodrigo Capo was sin-binned for Avramovic to score twice in rapid succession while Todeschini kept the scoreboard ticking over with both conversions and a fourth penalty to seal what was in the end a comfortable victory.
Argentina is third team to seal a place through qualifying, joining Fiji and Samoa from Oceania. The other eight confirmed places are taken by the quarter-finalists from the last Rugby World Cup in 2003: England, Australia, France, New Zealand, South Africa, Wales, Ireland and Scotland who were all given automatic places for Rugby World Cup 2007.
Uruguay, who can take great heart from their finest performance against their South American neighbours, must now defeat Chile on 22 July if they are to stand a chance of qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2007.
The runners-up in Americas 3a will face the runners-up in Americas 3b, contested by Canada, USA and Barbados in the play-off over a home and away basis with thee winner progressing to the repechage.
Oceania overcome Cooks to progress
Meanwhile, in Oceania qualifying Tonga completed a one-sided play-off victory over the Cook Islands, their 90-0 home win taking them through 167-10 on aggregate from the two home and away fixtures.
Tonga, as Oceania 3, will now play Asia 2 for the second repechage place in Pool A, joining England, South Africa, Samoa and Americas 3.
Argentina-Uruguay match details:
Argentina: 15- Federico Serra, 14- Rafael Carballo, 13- Gonzalo Tiesi, 12- Miguel Avramovic, 11- Lucas Borges, 10- Federico Todeschini, 09- Agustín Pichot (capitán), 08- Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 07- Martín Schusterman, 06- Martín Durand, 05- Rimas Álvarez, 06- Manuel Carizza, 03- Martín Scelzo, 02- Mario Ledesma, 01- Marcos Ayerza.
Reps: Pablo Gambarini, Gastón De Robertis, Pablo Bouza, Agustín Creevy, Nicolás Vergallo, Juan de la Cruz Fernández Miranda, Horacio Agulla.
Uruguay: 15- Juan Menchaca, 14- Francisco Bulanti, 13- Juan Manuel Llovet, 12- Diego Aguirre, 11- Juan Labat, 10- Matías Arocena, 09- Juan Campomar, 08- Rodrigo Capo (capitán), 07- Alfredo Giuria, 06- Rafael Álvarez, 05- Juan Miguel Álvarez, 04- Juan Alzueta, 03- Guillermo Storace, 02- Juan Andrés Pérez, 01- Diego Lamelas.
Reps: Federico Capo, Nicolás Klappembach, Rodrigo Sánchez, Ignacio Conti, Nicolás Grille, Sebastián Aguirre, y Gustavo Voituret
Ref: Nigeel Owens (Wales)