Match day arrived and this test match build up felt quite different to the previous test match in San Juan. The town was covered in pale blue and white and there were clearly a lot of people who had come to Santa Fe for the game. Our tour guide, Brian had to stay in a different hotel from us because our hotel was full.
It even started at breakfast when we had a brief chat with John Lacey, the match referee. John is a very approachable guy who we had spoken to before at breakfast in a hotel in Clermont. He mused about about the game at the Gardens against Stade Francais, almost telling himself off for missing the sending off of Rory Hutchinson and marvelling how the Saints had won having been down to 13 men.
En route back to our room, we were greeted by the sight of Nigel Owens getting out of the lift with three of our party. “That’s a bad way to start the day, being trapped in a lift with three Englishmen, Nigel!” I quipped. “It can only get better” he replied, smiling.
We wandered into town and en route spotted Los Pumpas. They are a mixed abilities rugby team who had been featured in the local paper the day before. They were delighted that we recognised them. There were many handshakes and hugs and a team photo with the two English visitors. I should say that DrT and I were appropriately dressed in our England shirts.
We headed further into town causing much interest amongst the locals. DrT was approached by the local radio station for an interview but his Spanish wasn’t quite up to it. Instead we sat in a local coffee shop drinking the best coffee we had had in days and listening to the locals passionately debating something. We had no idea what.
En route back to the hotel, we bumped into a family from Córdoba. They were much taken by meeting two England supporters – the three young lads and Dad all sported their Jockey Club Rugby team shirts. Cue more handshakes and hugs and of course a photo.
Soon it was time to head to the ground. After the travails of getting to the match the previous week, our hosts had arranged hospitality. However, it was still a trauma getting to the ground and we ended up walking some distance to our destination. But it did give us a chance to see how the locals were getting ready for the game. I wish we had tried the local sausages but hospitality beckoned.
Where there had been nothing but the game in San Juan, in Santa Fe there were the usual merchandise shops, silly games and a band at the ground. This game was a much bigger deal.
Hospitality meant a lot of alcohol, some food and to my relief seats in the shade. The ground is the home of Colon Football Club and featured a moat to keep the supporters away from the pitch. That and yet more barbed wire as we had seen at the ground in San Juan.
The first games featured our new friends from Los Pumpas. The skill levels were actually very high – kids and adults of all ages played a good game which the enthusiastic crowd appreciated. We think Los Pumpas ran out winners but nobody really cared, it was just great to be playing on such an important occasion.
The main event was just as hairum scarerum as the first match. First up was the warm up when we spotted Harry Mallinder running around the edge of pitch. Cue much shouting to Harry from the stands which caused several of the locals to join in and a grin and wave from Harry.
Piers Francis looks the real deal and paired up well with George Ford and despite his gaffe in the second half, I thought had a really good game. Chris Robshaw had a great game, he worked exceptionally well in both the lose and set piece. Danny Care was busy and his pass from the base didn’t involve the Mothers meetings he can be guilty of. Dylan was less vocal this week – maybe his team needed less guidance? We all spotted that Mike Brown had rediscovered his ability to pass such that two of the tries came from his breaks and passes. The Argentinians played well and are clearly happy with broken, fast paced rugby but aren’t quite accurate enough which in Test rugby is fatal.
England won the game and yet more trophies were handed to Dylan. We ambled our way through the crowds with yet more handshakes and photos – the locals were just as happy to meet us as before the game.
Time for some beer and a celebration of the series win which is exactly what we did.