Tigers started the new season on Saturday with Marcos Ayerza’s testimonial and a visit of the Argentina national side preparing for the World Cup. Unsurprisingly the Pumas machine was better oiled but Tigers management will be concerned at the ease with which they shredded the home defence for 9 tries in a 55-34 victory.
The first try was from a scrum and a simple loop move saw Catchpole, Loamanu and Camacho all bite and Argentina take advantage by shifting the ball to the wing for the try. The second came as Marcelo Bosch stepped through Tigers inside defence from a 5m ruck with the third a flowing move that Imhoff finished giving the Pumas a 21-3 lead after only 20 minutes.
Tigers came back into the game and started putting Argentina under some pressure, with Betham bursting down the right hand flank. Tigers had a spell of pressure from lineouts on the left side of the pitch and Riccardo Brugnara burst through the side of a goal line ruck to secure Tigers first try.
The coaching staff will be disappointed with Catchpole and Loamanu each wasting good positions with grubber kicks to nothing but Tigers were increasing their fluency and making ground at most rucks.
Argentina though were to strike next as Tommy Bell had a moment to forget. With the field opening out in front of him he chose to throw a wild 20 metre plus pass towards the Crumbie touchline, which was skilfully intercepted by former Bordeaux and Toulon fly half Nicola Sanchez and returned for 7 points.
Both sides made changes at half time, Tigers made 12 with only De Chaves, Pearce and Bell returning whilst Argentina made 14 hooker Julian Montoya the only man left standing.
Argentina went to their maul to create the first try of the half. Tigers contested the lineout 10 metres from their line but were unable to disrupt the ball. With the Argentinian pack set they rumbled forwards, Montoya scoring from close range shrugging off the attentions of Adam Thompstone.
The second of the half was similar to the first of the match, a simple handling move finding space on the opposite wing, but from much closer in. Bell will be disappointed he didn’t make Agulla work harder for the finish.
The second half XV was better structured for large parts of the game and responded well scoring the next three tries and taking the score from 38-13 to 38-34. Harry Thacker started the come back with a charge down that he regathered for the try before Freddie Burns followed Sanchez’s example by returning an intercepted pass for a try. This time Argentina were going back towards the blindside touchline following a lineout when Burns pounced.
The final Tigers try will be one that winger Paulo Odogwu will never forget. On his first major start at Welford Road Odogwu took the ball just before his own 10m line from a long cut out pass by Tommy Bell. Given the outside by his opposite winger he took it. All of it. He gassed the first man, threw in a subtle swerve on the second to have him too before just keeping out of reach of the covering full back for long enough to ground under his tackle.
Unfortunately that was the last time he got the ball and Tigers struggled to contain the Pumas for the final period. The inside defence went missing more than once and Soccino and Leguizamon ran riot. By this time Ayerza had re-appeared in Tigers colours earning the biggest cheer of the day.
Tigers will need to sharpen up their defence considerably after this game; being that stand offish, static and passive will be as cruelly treated in the Premiership as it was on Saturday and no one will be so understanding in a proper game. The attack though showed some sparks, Mauger’s arrival heralding a flurry of inside passes whether they were particularly on or not, but the attack created only two tries and one of those a pick and go effort from the forwards.
Don’t let the positive spin much of social media has given the match hide the fact that this game raised a lot more questions of our abilities than gave answers.