Heartland XV go down to Argentina 15

NZPA     13 Nov 2006    

A Buenos Aires referee controlling the match awarded the Argentinian side a try as they mauled over the goal line -- without the ball.

The Heartland side had smuggled the ball and were 20m up field when the referee pointed to the ground and yelled "try!", stunning players, fans and officials.

The whistleman then realised his error, scratched his head and amended his decision amid laughter and jokes from the crowd.

"It was bizarre," Heartland coach and former All Blacks selector Ross Cooper told NZPA from Rosario.

"Everybody was just absolutely gobsmacked and started to laugh. He pointed to the spot and said "try!". And, of course, we had the ball 20m away. He was a pretty hard case. It was one of the great bloopers."

Cooper said his team didn't dwell on the referee's errors.

"We just got on with the job."

Two quick tries by Argentina A just before halftime took the game away from the Heartland XV.

The result was put in perspective by the Pumas' 25-18 Test win over England at Twickenham today, which underscored the strength of their A team selected from the rest.

Cooper said Argentina A was at a "different level" to his team.

"We hung in there and these guys have improved with each game here," he said of his team.

"We were disappointed. They gave it everything so we can't complain about their effort.

"It's been a bit of an eye-opener for some of them because they've gone from two training runs a week to two a day -- just a different level, different environment, different coach.

The touring side beat Salta 23-22 and then lost 13-35 to Tucuman to finish their short tour with a win and two losses.

No 8 Tom Solomon scored about 15 minutes into the game today after Argentina A had led 7-0.

"It was 7-5 for nearly 35min before they ripped in just before halftime with two very well-taken, long-range tries," Cooper said.

"But this team has gained a tremendous amount from the tour. The players have improved out of sight -- both technically and in their approach, their scrummaging, their mauling and counter-mauling and counter-rucking.

"We weren't the greatest scrummaging team when we left and they've improved in the forwards quite dramatically."

Result: Argentina A 39 Heartland XV 5 (Tom Somolon try). Halftime: 21-5.