BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The first-ever Super Rugby game in Argentina had a bitter twist in the tail for the Jaguares after the new franchise rallied from a 12-point deficit only to see the Chiefs grasp a 30-26 victory in the final play.
Jaguares proved to be competitive with two tries in the last 10 minutes, and weapons to harm any opponent, but the inexperienced side still needs to adjust fully to Super Rugby.
"We failed to control the ball on the last play," said Matias Moroni, who scored the go-ahead try with seven minutes left for 26-23 against the Hamilton-based Chiefs, the 2012 and 2013 champions. "It is something we still have to learn how to deal with."
Their opponents also learned from the encounter, one of six matches on Saturday in five countries across four continents.
"It was a new experience for a lot of our guys coming over here (from New Zealand), experiencing the crowd, the culture and a new brand of football," Chiefs co-captain Sam Cane said.
The first half for 18,000 fans at Velez Sarsfield Stadium finished 14-13 in favor of the Jaguares, a tiny advantage considering they had control of ball possession.
Jaguares is playing with much of Argentina's national team that reached the semifinals of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Against the Chiefs, 14 of the starters had played in that tournament, where the Pumas had shown an ambitious southern hemisphere style of play.
"This is not a time to change things, but to keep on trusting in our game plan," said Jaguares head coach Raul Perez. "We were able to hurt a strong team as the Chiefs and improved from the previous game (a 19-15 loss to the Sharks) but we still need to mature in some aspects."
After four rounds, Jaguares are 1-2 heading into the toughest segment of the competition. They host the Stormers next Saturday and then head to a four-week tour that includes three games in New Zealand — Blues, Hurricanes and Crusaders — and the final one in Tokyo against Sunwolves.
Second five-eight Juan Martin Hernandez and flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon, two veteran Pumas, made their debut after missing the first two games and were a great help for a young team. However, injuries have started to emerge. Loosehead prop Lucas Noguera Paz is out of the tournament with a torn knee, tighthead Ramiro Herrera missed the last match and is doubtful for next Saturday and his replacement, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, suffered a severe concussion.
"Results are paramount," said Perez. "There is still a long way to go, but now weariness begins to be a factor and managing with all those trips is also something new for us."