Tokyo: 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 penalty.
“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.”