The Wallabies overcame a 10-point deficit and a second-half red card to claim a 16-16 draw with Argentina in the final Test of the Tri-Nations in Sydney on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The buildup to this clash had been marred by the controversy surrounding Argentina’s Pablo Matera, Guido Petti and Santiago Socino, who were implicated in a series of xenophobic and racist comments made between 2011 and 2013.
All three players appear set to still have a future with Argentina Rugby despite the scandal, but were not considered for selection for this match.
It meant that for the second week running Los Pumas went into action with an overhauled team, while they’d seen any hopes of a historic Tri-Nations title challenge fade away after suffering a 38-0 hammering at the hands of the All Blacks last weekend.
In this context, it wouldn’t have been all that surprising to see Argentina endure another one-sided defeat, but the first half proved to be a fiercely contested affair in wet-weather conditions, and during which a player from either side was yellow-carded for dangerous cleanouts at the ruck.
And despite Australia dominating territory and possession in the opening stanza, it was Argentina who pounced when Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper was in the sin bin to score a sensational try against the run of play through superstar wing Bautista Delguy.
That enabled the Pumas to open up a handy 13-3 lead, and with the rain continuing to pour down, it was always going to be challenging for Australia to chase the game from there.
Reece Hodge would slot a penalty on either side of half time to reduce the deficit to four points, but on the hour mark, there was a potentially match-defining moment when Wallabies substitute Lukhan Salakia-Loto was red-carded for a dangerous head-high tackle.
From the resultant penalty, Domingo Miotti also slotted another penalty to restore a seven-point lead for Argentina, but the Wallabies responded superbly as they turned to their impressive driving maul.
This eventually resulted in another Argentina player being yellow-carded for repeated infringements before Hooper burst over from the back of a lineout drive to score. A superb conversion from Hodge locked the scores up at 16-16 with 10 minutes to play.
In the final seconds, Hodge would have an opportunity to claim a remarkable comeback win, but a long-range penalty on the angle drifted wide, leaving both sides to settle for what was probably a fair result.
Meanwhile, as was already virtually assured before kick-off, the All Blacks were crowned Tri-Nations champs for 2020.
Wallabies – Try: Michael Hooper. Conversion: Reece Hodge. Penalties: Hodge (3).
Argentina – Try: Bautista Delguy. Conversion: Domingo Miotti. Penalties: Nicolas Sanchez, Miotti (2).
Wallabies – 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nic White, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Salakia-Loto, 20 Rob Valetini, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Irae Simone, 23 Tom Banks.
Argentina – 15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente (c), 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Rodrigo Bruni, 7 Facundo Isa, 6 Santiago Grondona, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Subs: 16 Jose Luis Gonzalez, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Francisco Gorrissen, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Santiago Chocobares.
Photo: Getty Images