March 12, 2014
Goodbye to long season
As the last game of the fifteens, the final of the National Provincial Championship at the quaint Jockey Club in Rosario, was a good way to bid adieu to a long season. Rosario was desperate to win a championship they had only won once since it was first played in 1945; coming from the West, Tucumán was after its tenth NPC win.
Rosario plays simple yet enjoyable rugby, with skilled players and flair. Amongst the 23 players in the match-day squad, there were seven from Jockey Club, fifteen from the multi-champion Duendes and one from Gimnasia y Esgrima. Local derbies are huge in Rosario yet players were together fighting for the same cause. Their only championship win had been in 1965 when they managed to break the stronghold coming from Buenos Aires. Having lost two consecutive finals, they were hoping it would be third-time lucky.
Tucumán has recently modernized their game structure without taking anything away from their traditional forwards game. They now have backs that can play with width and speed and it is no longer the “Clockwork Orange” that used to destroy opponents with their rolling maul as their only weapon. They have a good scrum, generate positive momentum and their backs are fast and take risks — centres Matías Orlando and Javier Rojas are good enough to be considered for next years’ international season.
There were high expectations on what was to be a good final. Both teams brought their game plans and fought hard, despite the fact that Rosario was never in the lead. Tucumán was, to be fair, the best on the day and deserving champion. Their championship-winning campaign had started back in February.
Tucumán had also cut short the supremacy of Buenos Aires in 1985, soon winning seven “Argentinos” in nine seasons. They then lost the rudder and only two more championships were won (in 2005 and 2010) before Saturday’s celebration. If any provincial team epitomises the love for their land and provincial colours, it is Tucumán.
This was the end of the fifteens season in the country for 2013; over the next couple of months sevens rugby will take over before it all starts again in 2014 for what promises to be another enthralling season. First of the calendar will be the revamped National Club Championship.
2014 RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP. The 2014 Rugby Championship schedule was released yesterday and it has no variation to that of the first two seasons. Los Pumas will first travel to South Africa where they will open on August 16th against the Springboks at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld, a stadium they have never played at before. Both teams will meet a week later in Argentina Los Pumas’ home venues have not yet been announced.
After a bye weekend, the mighty All Blacks will be waiting for them in New Zealand’s art deco city of Napier (September 6th). The tour will then continue against Australia on the Gold Coast (September 13th), the same venue in which they played in the inaugural Rugby Championship. The hardest of International tournaments will finish at home against New Zealand and Australian, in Argentina, on September 27th and October 4th.