Wallabies survive late scare to down Pumas on the Gold Coast
Wallabies 32 Pumas 25
Argentina pushed Australia all the way to the final whistle on the Gold Coast on Saturday evening. The Pumas have developed strongly and can not be far from their first victory in the Rugby Championship.
The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Georgina Robinson reported the action.
Australia survived a two-try second-half comeback from a spirited Argentina to keep a maiden Rugby Championship win beyond the Pumas’ reach on Saturday.
Two tries to captain Michael Hooper and a maiden Test five-pointer to winger Peter Betham gave the Wallabies a 29-13 lead in the 55th minute, but the visitors piled on two tries in seven minutes to keep their hopes alive in front of a record-low Test crowd of 14,281 at the Gold Coast’s Cbus Stadium.
Only desperate set piece defence from an all-reserves front row kept the Pumas out at the death, and the Wallabies will be left to rue a host of errors that held them to a 14-7 first-half score line despite 74 per cent possession.
A converted try from Pumas winger Manuel “The Panther” Montero provided Argentina’s only mark on the scoreboard in the first half, while Hooper’s try and nine points from the boot of five-eighth Bernard Foley kept Australia moving in the right direction.
Whether it was a pass from the ruck to no-one, or a ball lost forward or in contact, they hurt themselves more often than not, with all the ball and all the momentum for much of the half.
In the 29th minute Rob Simmons, chief offender against the Springboks last week, won an important lineout against the throw, 10 metres out from Australia’s line. But workhorse prop James Slipper – the most capped Wallaby on the pitch – made a rare error and knocked the ball on at a ruck inside their 22.
They survived the assault, winning a crucial scrum penalty, but it was indicative of the scrappy first half played under intermittent showers.
When the Wallabies were direct they made metres, never more so than in the 33rd minute when Foley sliced up the middle to within two metres of Argentina’s line. Hooper appeared to have scored, but the Wallabies were awarded the penalty after a Pumas defender made a tackle from the ground.
They came away with points, Foley slotting a penalty shot from 10 metres out almost 10 minutes later to give Australia the lead, 11-7, on halftime, and the Pumas gifted the home side a bonus three on the way into the sheds to make it 14-7.
Australia were more patient after the break, and Hooper’s second and Betham’s effort in the 60th minute appeared to promise an easy victory for the men in gold.
But six points from the boot of Pumas five-eighth Nicolas Sanchez kept the Wallabies just within reach and Marcelo Bosch’s effort in the 64th minute put the game back in the balance, 29-21 to Australia with plenty left on the clock.
Ewen McKenzie had emptied his bench much earlier this week. After seven defining minutes against the Springboks last week, Kurtley Beale was subbed on for Matt Toomua in the 53rd minute, soon after Scott Higginbotham and Pek Cowan came on for Scott Fardy and James Slipper respectively.
Argentina got pay from the set piece, and Beale’s influence was not as decisive as last week, while an apparent ankle injury to Betham forced No.9 Nick Phipps to the wing and Nic White on as his replacement.
Errors continued to hurt Australia. Rob Horne lost in contact 10 metres out from the Wallabies’ line and the Pumas made them pay, fullback Tuculet pouncing on a kick through from Sanchez to score in the 71st minute.
The five-eighth missed the conversion and ultimately let the Wallabies off the hook when Foley kicked a penalty goal to put them seven points clear in the 74th minute.
They barely survived another raid from the Pumas and only a knock-on from Cubelli within striking distance of the white paint – and one last solid scrum – saved them once and for all.
The Wallabies next travel to Cape Town for what is bound to be another tough fixture after their close encounter with the Springboks in Perth.
By Max Power
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