Wales cash in as Pumas pay price for Cora's loose tongue
Referee Toby Lothian officiated at his first Hong Kong Sevens yesterday and neither Wales nor Argentina are likely to forget him after this Plate final.
Wales clinched an entertaining match with a try from Tal Selley in the dying seconds to win 26-19, but not before the Hong Kong official had a major say in the proceedings.
Lothian firstly sin-binned Wales' Robert McCusker for stamping after six minutes of the first half, and the Welsh went into the break 19-5 down.
Argentina's advantage only lasted for the first few minutes of the second half, however, as Lothian then showed a yellow card to Argentina's Santiago Gomez Cora for backchat, which changed the complexion of the game.
Cora is Argentina's main man and the all-time leading tryscorer in IRB World Sevens Series history - he had six tries this weekend to take him to 160 - but whatever comment he made to Lothian cost his team dearly.
With his knack for scoring, he was the one person the South Americans would have wanted on the pitch.
Suddenly, Argentina were without their best player, and it was Wales who had the advantage and they cashed in.
'We had a man sin-binned each and to be a man down in sevens is a big thing,' Wales captain Jonathan Edwards said. 'But it made more of a difference for us because it came at just the right time when we were chasing the game in the second half. We were able to exploit the chances we created.
'By the time Cora was back on the pitch we had all the momentum and the game was there for the taking.
'His yellow card may have been a bit harsh, but the referee's out there with a difficult job to do. It's a Plate final in Hong Kong and a tense game, so decisions like that are key factors in these kind of matches.
'But we still had to put the scores on the board to win it and we were able to do that, which is the most important thing of all.'
Before things took a turn for the worse for him, Cora got his side off to the best possible start by scoring a try in the first minute. Wales responded with a try from Wayne Evans but two more touchdowns from Gonzalo Camacho and Juan Facundo Barni, plus two conversions from Mariano Dobal, had the Argentines 19-5 up at the break.
Cora's yellow card then gave the Welsh a lifeline that they grasped, thanks to tries from Alec Jenkins and Lee Beach, with Evans kicking two conversions, to leave it all square at 19-19.
Selley then popped up at the death and Dai Flannagan kicked the conversion for good measure.
It was Edwards' second Plate win in Hong Kong as he was in the Wales side that triumphed in the competition last year and he wants to keep that feeling going next weekend at the Adelaide Sevens.
'Argentina are a tough side and we couldn't get our hands on the ball in the first half,' he said.
'Once we did we were able to turn the game around.
'We're a young squad who are developing all the time and it's a big win for us.
'We'll go to Adelaide with lots of confidence after this victory.
'We want to be competing with the best teams in the world and we showed today we're definitely progressing in the right direction.
'We'll have a few cheeky beers tonight to celebrate.'
The way things turned out, he could do worse than buy referee Lothian a few pints while he's at it.