HIGASHIOSAKA, OSAKA PREF. – Argentina hooker Julian Montoya scored a rapid first-half hat trick as the Pumas beat Tonga 28-12 on Saturday to revive their bid for a Rugby World Cup quarterfinal place.
Montoya’s treble at Hanazono Stadium equaled Argentina’s record for the most tries in a single World Cup match set by center Martin Gaitan, now a member of its coaching staff, in a 67-14 rout of Namibia at Gosford, Australia, in 2003.
It also meant that, with six in total at the global showpiece, Montoya has scored more World Cup tries than any other hooker.
Argentina had a four-try bonus-point as early as the 26th minute and the Pumas led 28-7 at halftime.
In a group also featuring in-form England — its next opponent in Tokyo next Saturday — Argentina badly needed a bonus-point victory from this match to maintain its hopes of reaching the knockout phase following an agonizing opening 23-21 loss to France.
“I thought we were very good in the first half and not in the second half,” said coach Mario Ledesma.
“We have a very big week to prepare a final against the English next week so there is a lot of work to do.”
Tonga was also looking to bounce back after a 35-3 loss to England.
But it was 2007 and 2015 semi-finalist Argentina that opened the scoring with a seventh-minute try straight off the training ground.
It declined an easy penalty and kicked for a lineout close to Tonga’s line.
After Montoya threw the ball in, Argentina won possession and lock Guido Petti quickly passed the ball back to the hooker on the blindside for a well-worked score.
Flyhalf Benjamin Urdapilleta, preferred to Nicolas Sanchez, then made light of a difficult conversion from 45 meters out on the right.
Argentina’s second try in the 17th minute was a similar story, although this time Montoya went over from a conventional lineout catch and drive.
Minutes later, Argentina scored its third try when Tonga flyhalf James Faiva’s careless flicked pass went to ground and Pumas left wing Santiago Carreras seized on the loose ball to sprint in from 55 meters out.
Urdapilleta, a key figure at French champion Castres Olympique, again converted to make it 21-0, much to the delight of Pumas’ fans in a crowd of more than 21,000.
Argentina then had its bonus point and Montoya his hat trick when the hooker, who also scored a try against France, powered over from the base of a ruck.
But an Argentina fumble following Urdapilleta’s fourth successful conversion at the restart led to a Tonga try in the 30th minute.
A spell of sustained forward possession ended with scrum-half Sonatane Takulua’s wide pass to fullback Telusa Veainu, who sprinted in between two defenders.