June 2, 2019 / 3:45 AM / 14 days ago

Rugby-Jaguares road warriors head home with title in sight

SYDNEY, June 2 (Reuters) - The Jaguares will start their 12,300 kilometre journey home to Argentina in good spirits on Sunday after laying down a marker on a four-match Australasian tour that will set alarm bells ringing around Super Rugby, and perhaps beyond.

Their victory over the Queensland Reds on Saturday was their third on the road against former Super Rugby champions in successive weeks after wins over the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney and the Wellington Hurricanes in the New Zealand capital.

It put the Argentines firmly in the driving seat to win the South Africa conference, six points clear of the Johannesburg-based Lions with home regular season matches against the Sharks and lowly Sunwolves to come.

Top spot in their conference would give the Jaguares a home quarter-final in the playoffs in only their fourth season in the competition and, on this form, no team will want to make the long trip to South America.

The 34-23 victory over the Reds at Lang Park — their sixth straight in Australia — was achieved on the back of the same attributes that won them tough matches on the previous two weekends.

While the set scrum may not be the weapon it was for Argentine teams of the past, the Jaguares dominate the breakdown, strike quickly down the flanks through their classy outside backs and finish strongly in the final quarter.

“We knew that if we continued playing our game, we were going to get the victory,” standout flanker Pablo Matera said in an on-pitch interview.

“This was one of the best tours in the short history of this team. I’m happy because a lot of work goes into these results.

“And I am happy that after all the hard work over the last four years, we are starting getting the results for our team. We are enjoying the moment.”

Before the Jaguares outmuscled the Waratahs in Sydney last week came the first suggestions that the other southern hemisphere rugby powers were going to pay the price for their “generosity” in allowing the Argentines into the competition.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Waratahs have often stacked their side with Wallabies, the heart of the complaint is that the Jaguares are effectively the Argentina national team in different shirts.

The Argentinian union has never made any secret of their development plan with their players knowing they need to be playing in Super Rugby to be considered for the Pumas squad.

The benefits of having their best players playing together for four years leading up to the 2019 World Cup are obvious and the form of the Jaguares this season appear to have vindicated the plan.

The Pumas have reached the semi-finals at two of the last three World Cups and, notwithstanding a tough pool also including England and France, are building the foundations for a run to the business end of this year’s tournament in Japan. (Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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