Visiting Pampas XV play to a draw
Ken Borland
February 26, 2010
The visiting Pampas XV from Argentina played to a 27-27 (half-time 17-14) draw with Eastern Province in their exciting Vodacom Cup match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

The Pampas XV's inclusion in the local domestic tournament -- the first overseas team to do so -- can already be called a success as they showed they will definitely add to the competition with their skill and slightly different approach to the local teams.

They will also be hoping that more time in South Africa and the chance to better understand the new rule interpretations pays off as their efforts in the rucks were a total mess and they leaked numerous penalties at this crucial phase.

An attempt to run through hardman centre De Wet Barry cost the Pampas XV three early points as Eastern Province fullback Justin Peach kicked the resulting penalty, but the superb interplay of the Argentinean forwards and backs led to the first of their four tries soon afterwards, hooker Agustin Creevy, the captain of the touring side, crashing over.

But it was obvious the Pampas XV were struggling to come to terms with the new set of interpretations at the rucks and they conceded another penalty to Peach at this phase in the 10th minute to relinquish the lead.

The Argentines were back in front again in the 18th minute and the build-up was again impressive before Benjamin Urdapilleta, the elusive flyhalf, ducked under the tackles of two defenders and scurried over the tryline.

Urdapilleta again missed the conversion and the Pampas XV were 10-6 ahead but, in the 28th minute, they were penalised again for hands in the ruck and the in-form Peach brought Eastern Province back to within one point.

Two minutes later, however, the Pampas XV once again sauntered through the Eastern Province defence for Urdapilleta's second try. Giant lock Dino Caceres latched on to the ball in the lineout and the home side's defence came undone as left wing Mauro Commuzzi burst through on an inside-pass and, after a quick recycle, the ball was delivered to Urdapilleta to dash over with barely a hand laid on him.

But Eastern Province replied four minutes from half time with a top-class try of their own. The home team were awarded a penalty and a brilliant touch-kick by Peach set up a lineout close to the corner flag. From the lineout, the ball went right and flank Jacques Potgieter, a veritable whirlwind at times, came flying through and then delivered a superb pop-pass in the tackle for wing Howard Noble to score.

The Pampas XV led 17-14 at half time, but two important calls went against them early in the second half that they might not have expected back home. Peach kicked his fourth penalty after the visitors were penalised for having players in front of the kicker as they cleared their lines from deep in their own territory, and the former Bolander's fifth penalty came when Argentine prop Nahuel Chaparro was yellow-carded for a spear tackle.

Eastern Province then led 20-17 but relinquished their lead just three minutes later. Pressure on the lineout meant impressive scrumhalf Marlon Lewis could only hack the ball back to the Pumas-in-waiting and a superbly-judged chip by Urdapilleta meant fullback Martin Rodriguez was gone as soon as he caught the ball, speeding away for the bonus point try. Urdapilleta converted and the Pampas XV were back in front, 24-20.

But referee Sandile Mayende then dished up a penalty try for Eastern Province. The home side quickly spread the ball wide to the left touchline where wing Norman Nelson was able to find some space before chipping past Rodriguez. He could not beat the classy Pumas fullback to the touchdown, so it was something of a coup for Eastern Province when Mayende ruled Rodriguez had knocked Nelson off his stride with his shoulder. Peach converted from in front and the home side were 27-24 up.

But the Pampas XV finally had a call go their way at the ruck on the hour mark when Creevy showed maximum strength to hold off the tacklers and earn a penalty for hands-in, which Urdapilleta kicked to level the scores.

The Argentineans had a chance to snatch the win with four minutes remaining when referee Mayende spotted EP hooker Robert Dyer offsides but, with Urdapilleta having been substituted, centre Santiago Fernandez had to take his first kick at goal and clearly did not have his eye in.

Although maximum points eluded them, the Pampas XV did nevertheless make a solid start with three log points and captain Creevy said afterwards he was satisfied.

Eastern Province captain Barry called his team's defence disappointing and the tough-as-nails centre said he expected his team to lift their performance considerably.

The Pampas XV is one of two international teams in the Vodacom Cup, along with the Welwitschias from Namibia.

Eastern Province's next game is their local derby against Border and the red-and-black hoops should be a major threat for their neighbours. Border fell apart in the second half to be beaten 69-8 by the Sharks XV in Durban on Friday night.


Eastern Province - Tries: Howard Noble, penalty try. Conversion: Justin Peach. Penalties: Peach (5).

Pampas XV - Tries: Agustin Creevy, Benjamin Urdapilleta (2), Martin Rodriquez. Conversions: Urdapilleta (2). Penalty: Urdapilleta.

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