Ireland’s hopes for Rugby World Cup glory go south

Argentina always had an extra gear and pulled away for a 23-point victory

One plus for Irish fans is they’re not French fans, whose team was humiliated on Saturday night. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The four proud provinces stood shoulder to shoulder, as usual. But on a weekend when the rugby lights went out all over Europe, it was the four proud countries of the southern hemisphere that were left standing in the World Cup, while Irish fans, as is traditional at quarter-final stage, are on the way home. The back-to-back Six Nations champions didn't even get close to threatening the sub-equatorial monopoly on this year's competition.

Blitzed early and late by Argentina, they did well to make a game of it in between. But where Joe Schmidt's men were going flat out just to stay in touch, the Pumas always had an extra gear and pulled away for a 23-point win that didn't flatter .

Late try

Among the Irish fans here to see it was

Gordon Hamilton


, whose famous late try against


in 1991 remains the closest we’ve been to the last four.

And he must have had flashbacks later when watching the last of the quarter-finals, from Twickenham, where the Australians were again involved.

It had by then fallen to Scotland to save Europe's honour: an improbable prospect until winger Mark Bennett scored a Hamiltonian try in the left-hand corner, with only minutes remaining. Then, yet again, the Aussies did what they had to, in this case forcing a late penalty to win, much to the disgust of the many New Zealanders still in Cardiff.

There are consolations in defeat for Irish fans. One is that they’re not French fans, who saw their team utterly humiliated by a brilliant All Blacks on Saturday night.

Another is the sheer pride Argentinians take in their team, which makes it hard to begrudge them. If you feel the need to try, however, you could always point out that their 43-20 win meant they scored exactly one point for every million of Argentina’s estimated population. So much for underdogs.


True, they don’t specialise in the oval ball there. But nor do we. And that’s another consolation, as one of the special guests in Cardiff,

Michael D Higgins

, would have been aware.

Mr Higgins is better known as a fan of a certain round-ball game, as played by Galway United.

So like many of the Irish here, he had one eye on the Euro 2016 play-off draw. This could hardly have been better timed. As one bandwagon left Cardiff last night, deflated, another, bound for Sarajevo, was having its tyres pumped.