Hugo Porta - Argentina - Biography of his rugby union career.

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 25 October 1977

Click on image to enlarge

      Fly Half
      Tuesday, 11 September 1951
      Buenos Aries, Argentina
  • Argentina
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Hugo PORTA - Argentina - Biography of his rugby union career.

Hugo Porta pictured preparing for a penalty kick for Argentina during the Autumn of 1977.


                                                              (Part 1) 1971-1977.

Argentina's Hugo Porta is one of the true legends of rugby and would occupy the shortlist of many an expert for the spot of the world's best ever fly-half. What makes Porta's career all the more remarkable is the fact that he played for one of the second tier of rugby powers, although under his guidance the Pumas came very close to breaking through in the late seventies and early eighties. In many ways, Hugo was the complete fly-half - imagine say the running and passing skills of Stuart Barnes combined with the consistency and kicking ability of a Rob Andrew. Stocky and incredibly fast over 10 yards, Hugo posed an enormous attacking threat to opposing defences, whilst his form with the boot brought him a plethora of points scoring records by the time he retired. As a youth Hugo's main pastime was football and he even invited interest from Boca Juniors, the club of Diego Maradona, Daniel Passarella et al.


On the advice of his father, Hugo forsook the opportunity for soccer stardom to pursue his studies and thus became involved in rugby. After starting life as a scrum-half he made his debut for Argentina at stand off in 1971 against Chile. His early successes for Argentina were confined to the South American Championship which they won every time they entered, but as the 1970s wore on the Pumas began to produce some impressive results against the major nations. Indeed, Argentina were always very dangerous in Buenos Aires and ran a New Zealand XV close in a two test series in 1976. The same year they gave reigning Five Nations champions Wales a scare at Cardiff, eventually going down by only 19-18. During the game Argentina's plucky performance was met with polite applause by the Welsh fans who naturally assumed that their side could take control at any point and run up a cricket score. By the end of eighty minutes they were just relieved to have won at all and only survived thanks to a last minute penalty. In 1977 Hugo scored all the points in an 18-18 draw with France, a side that won the Grand Slam that year. It was becoming clear that Argentina's forward might, improved tactical awareness and Hugo's kicking were a formidable combination. (Jon Collins)




















The picture of  Argentina's Hugo Porta playing rugby (at Cambridge  - England) was taken

on 1st. October 1978.     Photo George Herringshaw.  © 

                                                  (Part 2) 1978-1981.


In 1978 Argentina matched the France result by scoring two tries against England at Twickenham in a game tied 13-13, Hugo scoring 5 of his country's points courtesy of a penalty and conversion. At this point many of Argentina's games still did not hold full test status, but this would change in the years that followed. The following year Argentina secured a breakthrough victory over one of rugby's superpowers - a 24-13 triumph over Australia in Buenos Aires. Taking full advantage of the possession won by his forwards, Porta scored 16 points, including three drop goals. Australia scrambled to a narrow victory in the second test to tie the series but a point had well and truly been proved. The next year, whilst touring with the Jaguars in South Africa, Hugo was invited to play for the South African Barbarians in one of the midweek matches against the British Lions. The match was lost 25-14, but Porta's performance was immense. The legendary coach Carwyn James was covering the match for the media and immediately sent a cable back to London saying: "Everything that happened around Hugo Porta was contested at a much lower level of skill and intellectual awareness. For a critic or coach or ex fly-half it was a question of having one's faith restored in the aesthetic and artistic possibilities of back play." In 1981 Argentina played hosts to England in the first official series between the countries and made life very difficult for the tourists, not the last time they would do so. The first test was drawn 19-19 with Hugo once again amongst the points with a penalty, a conversion and a drop goal but England sneaked home 12-6 in the second Test to take the series 1-0. (Jon Collins)













Hugo Porta is pictured above playing rugby for Argentina in England during the Puma's Tour of the 

British Isles.  Photo Stuart Franklin.  © G.H.


                                                      (Part 3) 1982-1987, 1990.


The year of 1982 saw arguably Hugo's greatest performance, though this was for the composite South American Jaguars, rather than Argentina. The Jaguars were touring South Africa in defiance of the Apartheid ban following four home and away tests between the sides in 1980. Against a world class Springbok side, which included the likes of Naas Botha, Rob Louw, Danie Gerber and Ray Mordt, the Jaguars had been hammered 50-18 in the first test. For the second match in Bloemfontein, Hugo instructed his men that their aim was to simply try and restore some pride, but by half time the South Americans believed they could actually win the match. Supported by the famous "Bajeda" scrum which earned valuable territory and possession, Hugo found the form of his life and scored all his side's points in a 21-14 victory. His tally included a full house of scoring methods with a try, a conversion, a drop goal and four penalties. A year later that same scrum inspired Argentina to an 18-3 victory over Australia in Brisbane which included two pushover tries. The series was drawn 1-1 with Hugo scoring 19 points in total. In 1985 fortress Buenos Aires played host to two more remarkable performances both of which were again inspired by Hugo.


The first was a 24-16 victory over France, Argentina's first victory over the Cockerels in sixteen attempts since 1949. The second was a commendable 21-21 draw over Jock Hobbs's All Blacks touring side after the first test had been lost 33-20. With this calibre of result becoming more and more regular, the Pumas were expected to make a real impact in the 1987 World Cup. Unfortunately, the side appeared to have peaked too soon and Argentina's campaign ended in the group stages following defeats by New Zealand and Fiji. However, Hugo did have the honour of leading his country to its first major series win later in the year when touring Australia were defeated 1-0 with one match drawn. Hugo then retired only to make a come back at 38 three years later when Argentina toured the UK. Sadly, there would be no return to the glory days, for although the Pumas only lost narrowly to Ireland, they were hammered 51-0 by England and 49-3 by Scotland. The latter game was Hugo's last, not counting his one off appearance in 1997 against a World XV. He retired with 58 caps for Argentina and the Jaguars and in total scored 590 points in tests, including a world record 28 drop goals. (Jon Collins)