September 21, 2019 / 11:32 AM / 24 days ago

Rugby-Ledesma rages at referee after Pumas come up short against France

    By Nick Mulvenney
    TOKYO, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Mario Ledesma refused to make
excuses for Argentina failing to turn up in the first half of
their Rugby World Cup opener against France on Saturday but he
could not disguise his rage at some refereeing decisions as the
match reached a dramatic climax. 
    The Pumas coach was starting hooker when Argentina stunned
hosts France in the opening match of the 2007 World Cup and
thought Australian referee Angus Gardner had denied his team the
chance of a similar upset. 
    They went into the break of the Pool C encounter trailing
20-3 but fought back to take a one-point lead with 11 minutes to
go, only for Camille Lopez to slot a drop goal to seal victory
for France and condemn the Pumas to a 10th straight defeat. 
    Ledesma was particularly incensed by an interception by
France forward Louis Picamoles that snuffed out one attack and
repeated infringements by the French close to their line. 
    "I think that everybody saw it... Picamoles was at least two
or three metres offside when he intercepts the ball," Ledesma
told reporters. 
    "And I think that the touch judge calls it and the ref
decides not to give it to us. And we were playing on the front
foot, so that’s the first one - we should have been awarded a
    "I don’t have the penalty count but the ref told them
several times that the next one was going to be yellow. They
have to watch out and they didn’t get a yellow obviously. 
    "The most clear one was the last one, the French tackler
doesn’t roll away and (our) number nine cannot get the ball. And
then they jackal the ball. 
    "It was a penalty under the post, 30 metres away, so that
alone could have changed the game."
    With in-form England also in Pool C and only two teams going
through to the quarter-finals, Argentina will probably have to
beat the 2003 World Cup winners in Tokyo on Oct. 5 to progress. 
    The Pumas arrived in Japan with confidence high despite
their recent record because most of their losses were against 
New Zealand, South Africa and Australia and many of them had
been closely fought.
    They looked a pale imitation of the team that came close to
beating all three southern hemisphere powers this year in the
face of France's first-half onslaught, however. 
    Even so, Ledesma was unable to suppress the thought that his
players had been robbed by the officiating. 
    "We didn't do anything in the first half - defended badly
and didn't attack well, lost every ball into contact - so just
not doing what we've been doing for a while now," he said. 
    "I’m not forgetting what we did in the first half," he
added. "And I’m not forgetting what we didn’t do in the first
half - but there were clear game-changing decisions."

 (Additional reporting by Chris Gallagher, editing by Tony
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