Brunel hails Haimona as improving Italy wait for Springboks
New Zealand-born fly-half Kelly Haimona took another step towards cementing his place in Italy`s starting XV with another strong performance as the Azzurri suffered a slim 20-18 defeat to Argentina on Friday.
Haimona kicked 14 points in a 24-13 win over Samoa on his debut last week and added another 15 in Genoa as Italy paid the price for failing to land a try against the two-try Pumas.
Italy coach Jacques Brunel lamented the loss of a match that Italy, whose enterprise was tempered by some scrappy play in both attack and defence, had within their grasp.
But the Frenchman was quick to praise the contribution of Haimona, whose kicking skills this time were complemented by promising surges with ball in hand.
"More than Argentina winning this game, we lost it," said Brunel.
"We just weren`t efficient enough during a couple of occasions in the second half and we made the mistakes that led to their two tries.
"Last week with Samoa we were practical and effective, not today."
Brunel said he was buoyed by a performance from Haimona that showed that last week was no flash in the pan.
"For me it`s a confirmation and shows that last week against Samoa wasn`t an accident," added Brunel.
In a match moved forward a day because of fears over predicted storms in the flood-hit city of Genoa on Saturday, four first-half penalties from Haimona kicked Italy into a 12-10 half-time lead although Argentina had reduced arrears considerably a minute from the half-time whistle when Lucas Amorosino touched over and Juan Hernandez added the conversion.
Italy captain and No 8 Sergio Parisse said: "We gave a good performance in the first half, but it was our error that handed Argentina the try."
Argentina travelled to Italy on the back of a 41-31 defeat to Scotland but had suffered only one defeat to Italy, a 13-12 reverse in Cordoba in 2008, in the sides` previous seven meetings.
Despite Italy`s poor record, the hosts had high hopes of ending that sorry streak.
Italy came flying out the blocks in the second half but after Haimona kicked another penalty from 25 metres out to give Italy a 15-10 lead another error handed the Pumas their second try.
Parisse`s attempted chip deep in his own end ultimately led to an Argentina scrum and a great ball from Hernandez sent Jeromino De la Fuente clear to run through a static Italian defence to plant the ball under the posts.
Hernandez kicked a simple conversion to give the tourists a 17-15 lead on the hour.
Nicolas Sanchez took the Pumas five points clear with a penalty and despite Luciano Orquera, who replaced Haimona late on, reducing arrears in the final 10 minutes to set up a thrilling finish Argentina held on for the win.
"This was a very difficult match," said Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade. "We came off a bad defeat against Scotland and to put that behind us was our first challenge.
"Attitude was key and the team reacted well."
South Africa face England on Saturday, a week after going down 29-15 to Ireland.
Italy could provide a chance for the Springboks to claim their first win of their summer tour, but Parisse is hoping their extra day`s rest provided by rescheduling pays dividends.
Parisse added: "Having played on Friday, it gives us a chance to take advantage of an extra day of rest which, of course, we will welcome ahead of meeting South Africa next week."