Argentina’s men’s national team reached the Rugby World Cup semifinals Saturday by beating Wales 29-17 in a dramatic come-from-behind effort after trailing for the better part of the game. The Pumas will now have to face the almighty New Zealand All Blacks in the Stade de France next Friday, with a ticket to the finals on the line.
Argentina came into the game trying to attack from the start but couldn’t score and paid for it quickly. Wales went ahead 10-0 thanks to a try and a penalty kick, all courtesy of fly-half Dan Biggar. The Pumas appeared to calm down a bit after their opening jitters and managed to score thanks to two penalty kicks from wing Emiliano Bofelli to go to halftime down 10-6.
The real thrills came in the second half. Thanks to Bofelli’s steady foot, Argentina got ahead 12-10 on two penalty kics only to see its lead quickly evaporate after a try by scrum-half Tomos Williams to make it 17-10 for Wales at the 55-minute mark.
Although they were down on the scoreboard again, the Pumas had regained their momentum in full and kept attacking until they finally got their prize via a try by prop Joel Sclavi at minute 68. Bofelli’s two-point conversion put Argentina up 19-17, opening the door to the 12 dramatic final minutes of the match.
The moment that will probably live on in Pumas fans’ memories for ever was not a score but a save. With Wales in full attack mode, the ball found its way to the hand of Louis Rees-Zammit deep in Argentina’s field at the 74-minute mark. The Wales wing was sprinting to the ingoal to score a try that would have put his team on top when Pumas center Matías Moroni managed to tackle him at the last second and push him out of bounds.
The stage was set for a dramatic ending, with Argentina suffering the Welsh presure to the final seconds. But the rugby gods, however, had other plans. In the midst of an attack by Wales’ backs at midfield, Pumas legend Nicolás Sánchez, who entered the game in the second half, intercepted a pass and ran straight under the goalposts for a try that secured Argentina’s win.
Sánchez secured one last penalty kick to make the score 29-17, giving the Pumas their third World Cup semifinal appearance after making it to that instance in 2007 and 2015. Their best performance came in 2007, when they won bronze after beating France in the 3rd place match 34-10.
The Pumas will play New Zeland next Friday at 4 p.m., Argentina time.