Adam Ashley-Cooper scored a hat-trick of tries as the Wallabies booked their place in the World Cup final with a 29-15 win over Argentina at Twickenham on Sunday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Australia will appear in their fourth World Cup final, and their first since 2003, with the All Blacks lying in wait after their victory over the Springboks on Saturday.
For the second week in a row, the Wallabies were far from convincing, with their discipline and scrummaging particularly letting them down. They also benefited by some questionable decision-making from referee Wayne Barnes in the first half.
Yet, having said that, the fact remains that they scored four tries to none, and led the game from as early as the second minute. Their defence was once again impressive, while returning No 8 David Pocock was influential as ever, securing four vital turnovers.
Argentina were guilty of a loose start, with Wallabies lock Rob Simmons intercepting a poor inside pass from Nicolás Sánchez to score the fastest try of the World Cup after just 68 seconds of play.
Nevertheless, Argentina remained intent on running the ball from everywhere and while returning centre Marcelo Bosch did make a stunning early break, Wallabies flyhalf Bernarnd Foley produced a crucial try-saving tackle.
A few minutes later and the Wallabies had their second try as Foley sent a soaring long pass to Ashley-Cooper on the right wing, with the veteran back going over for the simplest of tries.
Despite the impressive finish from the Aussies, the try did come from a scrum that Barnes awarded after incorrectly adjudging that there had been a knock-on from the Pumas.
The English referee then incited further ire from the Twickenham crowd when he dubiously yellow-carded Argentine lock Tomás Lavanini for what he ruled to be a dangerous tackle. After initially stating that he was inclined to give the player ‘the benefit of the doubt’, Barnes was swayed by a number of slo-mo replays, and eventually sent Lavanini to the sin bin.
Things went from bad to worse for Argentina when captain Agustín Creevy limped from the field in the 31st minute, only to watch from the sidelines as another superb long ball from Matt Giteau put Ashley-Cooper away for his second try.
It put Australia into a 19-6 lead, and although Sánchez added a third penalty before half-time, there was another questionable refereeing call just before the break when Barnes blew for another inconclusive knock-on as Argentina launched one final meaningful attack.
Despite the influential officiating, the Pumas had often been their own worst enemy in the first half, and the clinical Wallabies made them pay for a rather cavalier approach in a match that surely called for a bit more circumspection.
However, the one area Argentina enjoyed complete ascendancy was at scrum time, and they won another penalty here soon after the restart, enabling Sánchez to cut the deficit to seven.
Foley and Sánchez then traded a penalty each as the Wallabies held onto a tenuous seven-point lead at the quarter-hour mark, but the result was put to bed when Drew Mitchell produced a brilliant 50m break, drawing a host of defenders before shuffling the ball out to Ashley-Cooper for his hat-trick.
Wallabies – Tries: Rob Simmons, Adam Ashley-Cooper (3). Conversions: Bernard Foley (3). Penalty: Foley
Argentina – Penalties: Nicolas Sánchez (5).
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Kurtley Beale.
Argentina – 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Subs: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera Paz, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 23 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images