BUENOS AIRES, March 11 (Reuters) - Jaguares flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez scored 21 points and his place kicking proved the difference as the Argentine side beat the Lions 36-24 in their first home match at Velez Sarsfield on Saturday.
Both sides scored four tries apiece as the Jaguares played some fine attacking rugby for an hour for their second win in three matches before a late fightback from the South Africans, runners-up last season, narrowed the winning margin.
However, the improving Jaguares were the better team and opened the scoring with a try by fullback Joaquin Tuculet after he took an inside pass from flanker Tomas Lezana to nip between two defenders and touch down in the corner.
A penalty by Sanchez, who put over six of his 10 kicks, had the home side eight points ahead before number eight Warren Whiteley broke through from close to the Jaguares line for the first of his two tries.
The try and flyhalf Shaun Reynolds’s conversion were the only Lions points of a first half in which they were pushed deep into their own territory by the marauding Jaguares’s pace and fine handling skills.
“More important than winning was to grow (as a team) and we did so in all aspects of the game and also in the psychological aspect,” Jaguares number eight Leonardo Senatore told reporters. “This team is maturing a lot and that shows on the pitch.”
The Argentine side led 21-7 at the interval after another try from wing Ramiro Moyano and two penalties converted by Sanchez while Lions lock Andries Ferreira was in the sin bin for a high tackle.
Replacement forward Jacques van Rooyen went over early in the second half but the Jaguares hit back with well worked tries from centre Jeronimo de la Fuente and Sanchez as they stretched the Lions defence. The second came after Lions hooker Robbie Coetzee was yellow carded.
The Jaguares looked set for another try as the match went into the final quarter but the Lions held out.
Busy replacement scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, one of their Springboks, moved his team about and they put pressure on the tiring Argentine defence, who lost Lezana to the sin bin, with tries from Malcolm Marx and Whiteley.
The Argentines, showing better discipline than in their first two matches, fully deserved their win in front of an ecstatic home crowd.
But it could have been closer as the Lions’ place kicking delivered a mere four points from conversions by Reynolds in the first half and Jaco van der Walt at the end. (Editing by Pritha Sarkar)